Silver Spring connection Metrorail: The Mass Transit Administration express bus service adds a lunch-hour run from Columbia to the Red Line subway station in Silver Spring.

The Intrepid Commuter

March 02, 1998

HOWARD COUNTY residents can hop an additional daily bus from Columbia to the Silver Spring Metrorail station beginning today.

It's part of a state effort to help those in Howard get to Washington, says Mass Transit Administration chief Ronald L. Freeland.

The bus will leave Columbia at noon and arrive at the Silver Spring Metro station at 1: 05 p.m. It will depart from the Metro station for Columbia at 1: 10 p.m. The trip is an expansion of bus line No. 929, which offers Columbia commuters express trips to the Metro station, where riders can catch Metrorail's Red Line to Washington or Shady Grove.

For other schedule information, call MTA's hot line at 1-800-543-9809.

Beware the blind curve on Bellona Avenue

Intrepid One has received a warning letter addressed to drivers from a concerned resident of Ruxton.

She warns about risks at the deep bend of Bellona Avenue, west of North Charles Street. There, at the bottom of a steep hill, drivers are vulnerable to a blind 45-degree curve in the road, sadly the scene of numerous accidents.

At Ruxton's Texaco station, attendants say their tow truck is constantly in motion on wet and slushy days, clearing the ditch of wreckage.

Last year, Intrepid highlighted this problem, and State Highway Administration officials responded by hanging new warning signs. But no rumble strips were added to the road, and SHA spokeswoman Fran Counihan said last week no plans exist to add further warnings to drivers.

Counihan said the entire stretch of Bellona will soon be turned over to Baltimore County traffic engineers. Perhaps they can rework that dangerous stretch and make it more driver-friendly.

Until then, beware on Bellona.

Dealers relieved of liability for air-bag switches

Here's the latest on the ever-inflating topic of air bags: The nation's two largest automakers announced last week that they are assuming liability for dealerships sued for installing on-off switches on the devices.

The move is an attempt to satisfy customers and dealers, experts say.

Consumers who fear an air bag might kill or injure them have received government permission to have the switches installed in their autos. Yet most dealers will not install switches because they are wary that courts might hold them liable for deaths or injuries in accidents in which the air bag was turned off.

General Motors Corp. said it would assume liability for GM dealers sued for installing a retrofitted GM cutoff switch in a vehicle. The company also will assume responsibility for lawsuits alleging the switch was faulty or customers were not warned adequately about switch use.

GM officials said they were seeking to assure their dealerships that they could install the switches without fear of liability, unless the issue was negligent workmanship.

Ford Motor Co.'s assurances were not as extensive. But the company sent dealers a letter last week making it clear the switches were covered under their indemnification agreement with dealers on automotive parts.

A Ford spokeswoman said the company felt it was on solid legal ground. Ford has 1.2 million switches in pickups on the road because it was the first company to install them in new pickups, starting with 1996 Rangers and then 1997 F-150s and some F-250s.

A representative of the American Insurance Association said the understanding would help channel customers back to the companies' dealerships and ensure that quality switches are installed properly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has granted permission to 18,248 people to get the switches.

Shortcuts

Fuel costs are dipping below $1 a gallon in some parts of the country -- including a few stations where gas prices have been spotted below 90 cents per gallon, the lowest since May 1994 -- according to the American Automobile Association. A national AAA survey found the average price for a gallon of self-service unleaded is $1.11, 17.3 cents less than a year ago. Officials say we should thank warm and rainy weather brought by El Nino, the Asian financial crisis and the pending weapons site inspection settlement with Iraq for keeping oil prices low. The latest commuting fad in New York is the van taxi. More than 400 minivan taxis are rolling through Gotham's streets in search of fares. Many say the vans are replacing the discontinued Chevrolet Caprice, the workhorse sedan used by cabbies for years.

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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