A costly charge for rough rides Bridge: Crews seek to extend the life of the potholed Potee Street Bridge, where drivers lose their tempers and their money on alignments.

The Intrepid Commuter

May 11, 1998

AS DRIVERS leave Baltimore going toward Anne Arundel County near Cherry Hill, many know to prepare for a rough ride as they brave the Potee Street Bridge.

This is a pitiful structure so full of potholes that entire car alignments are eligible for meltdown at any given crossing. Recently, city work crews closed one of the four lanes in an attempt to "extend the life of the bridge," a city official said.

One commuter, John Zaruba, has embarked on a publicity campaign from his Brooklyn home to bring the deplorable conditions to the attention of city bureaucrats who presumably don't venture that far south of City Hall.

Zaruba's 1996 Chevy has been treated to two front-end alignments -- thanks, he says, to the drive over the bridge twice a day. Two years ago, he sent a note detailing Potee problems to Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt L. Kocher.

"I called [Baltimore Department of Public Works Chief] George Balog one year ago and he said he would fix it -- but they have done nothing but patch it," Zaruba said. "I go over it twice a day -- it's terrible. A good storm would send that bridge right into the Patapsco River."

But the bad conditions persist -- and relief appears to be three years away.

Kocher said Friday that city bureaucrats have been mulling the state of the Potee Street Bridge for years. It is one of five bridges in Baltimore -- of 300 -- that has been designated as needing

significant work.

Architects will work up a design for the structure by June 1999, followed by bids for the work and construction that is expected to begin in October next year.

"The estimated length of construction is 20 months," Kocher said, adding, "The bridge is safe."

Nationwide program to target red light runners

A recent move to Baltimore from Boston shocked one commuter who wrote your wheelster to complain about our unofficial sport: Red light running.

In Boston, a city notorious for bad drivers, most commuters draw the line at flying through intersections, the New Englander claims.

Here, it is so common that many silently count to 10 before proceeding through the green light.

Intrepid last week engaged in research on the problem and found it is so bad nationwide, that 8,000 people die and 1 million are hurt annually in crashes in which someone has run a red light.

Look for a program from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chrysler Corp. and the American Trauma Society, an association of 180 hospitals. It will include increased police enforcement, cameras at intersections to photograph violators and an educational campaign about the dangers of red light running.

Cameras are stationed at hot intersections in Howard County snapping violators and will go up at Baltimore's worst crossroads by year's end.

A 1995 awareness program in 31 cities cut red light crashes by as much as 43 percent in some areas.

"It's just not a very complicated message -- stop running red lights," said Harry Teter, the trauma society's executive director. "Arrive alive."

City crew fills crater that gave a sinking feeling

A crater at the northwest corner of York Road and Cold Spring Lane that one driver says "could swallow your car whole" has haunted commuters for years.

The crater -- not a pothole, but a large round dip in the road -- affects cars that are heading south on York and turning west on Cold Spring. Intrepid staked out the intersection last week and pulled away amazed that any cars made it onto Cold Spring after passing through the giant dip.

"The turn onto Cold Spring has to be accomplished at a near standstill, unless you care to leave parts of your car's undersides behind," observed Melinda Krummerich, who called the situation imponderable."

Within one hour of an inquiry by Intrepid on Friday afternoon, DPW spokesman Kocher dispatched a city crew to the intersection to fill the crater, which he described as a sunken section of the road.

Celebrating the DPW response, Kocher called The Sun to ask: "How's that for efficiency?"

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