Rush hour on Key Bridge takes toll on commuters Booths: A motorist complains that not enough toll booths are operating in the morning. The MdTA responds that it considers the direction of the most traffic to determine lane openings.

The Intrepid Commuter

April 20, 1998

TAKE HEART, dear drivers, something is special about that morning drive to work.

At the Key Bridge, some say they experience a weird inner peace while cruising along with the spectacular view of someone's rear bumper: Stop, go, pay the toll.

But everyone isn't feeling calm. One puzzled motorist doesn't understand why fewer toll booths seem to be open during morning rush hour than at 9 p.m.

This motorist's peeve sparked Intrepid to inquire about the toll booth operations at the Key Bridge.

Lori Vidal, spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA), said a "sophisticated system" is in place for determining the number of open toll booths. Toll lanes are open to accommodate peak travel direction, she said. In other words, tTC the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

During morning rush hour, the heaviest volume of traffic on the bridge is southbound, said Vidal. So from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., four southbound toll lanes are open, and during evening rush hour, four lanes are open to accommodate the heavy flow of northbound traffic, she said.

"We have capacity to operate five lanes, but we don't have the volume of traffic to operate all five lanes," said Vidal of toll lane availability. "It's not something we staff on a regular basis."

Still disenchanted about the rush-hour drive? The wonders of technology are coming to the rescue.

Another spokeswoman for MdTA, Elana Mezile, said that beginning this fall, all toll lanes will have Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) capability. In addition to those staffed by people, two ETC-only lanes will serve ETC members.

To become a member of the road-ruling class, you'll have to purchase a transponder. Attached to the car, this device is electronically read at the booth and deducts the toll from an account set up by the driver.

Expect ETC lanes to appear on John F. Kennedy Highway, Harbor Tunnel and Fort McHenry Tunnel, Mezile said.

Red-light turns are accidents waiting to happen

Are drivers going to heck in a handbasket, or what? Don't they have to pass driving tests anymore?

That's how Louis W. Karp of Grindon Avenue in Hamilton feels every time he sees drivers making dangerous red-light rights onto Hamilton Avenue from Woodbourne Avenue.

"An accident awaiting the right mood or circumstance perhaps?" wondered Karp, whose vehicle has been hit twice at the intersection.

According to Karp, even though a white stop line nearly 20 feet from the intersection suggests that traveling farther on a red is not permitted, everyone's doing it. Cars. Trucks. Cabs, even.

The illegal turns make "legitimate" left turns onto Grindon Avenue an absolute mess, Karp told Intrepid One.

"Has the law been rewritten or have drivers decided that they may do whatever they wish to do so long as they get to their destination a few seconds earlier?" complained Karp. "My, what a mess the city has become."

As it turns out, Karp isn't seeing things.

According to Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works, the "No Turn on Red" sign has mysteriously disappeared from its perch above Woodbourne. Engineers will soon replace it, Kocher said.

"This should clear things up," he said, noting that Karp's letter was the first he had heard of the missing sign.

Shortcuts

Whether you have a green thumb or not, you'll get a handful of flower seeds if you ride public transportation Wednesday -- Earth Day. Mass Transit Administration bureaucrats who dreamed up the gimmick say they hope commuters will give Mother Earth a break and choose mass transit over their own wheels. Look for a federal report next week that could lay the groundwork for stricter pollution controls on vehicles made in 2004 and later. The Environmental Protection Agency's report will consider whether the nation needs to further reduce tailpipe pollution to meet air quality goals.

Pub Date: 4/20/98

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