Bird calls signal safety Experiment: In Baltimore County, the State Highway Administration tests a system to alert blind pedestrians when they can cross at an intersection.

The Intrepid Commuter

July 20, 1998

THERE'S a new serenade in Towson, and it goes something like this: "Chirp, chirp. Cuckoo, cuckoo."

That's what you will hear when you cross York Road at Pennsylvania Avenue, the busy intersection near Towson Commons.

The bird calls alert blind pedestrians when it is safe to cross, a six-second serenade. To cross York, they'll hear a loud "chirp." And when it's safe to cross Pennsylvania, a "cuckoo" chimes in.

State Highway Administration engineers installed the squawk boxes atop the crossing signals in a pedestrian experiment linked to the area's $4.3 million streetscape, a makeover for the county seat's crumbling sidewalks.

Bird calls have also been placed at York Road at Seminary Avenue, Bellona Avenue and Ridgely Road. They were installed at the Seminary intersection to help a blind couple.

"It certainly gets your attention," crowed SHA spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar last week.

The chirping intersections, all in Baltimore County, add levity to the task of crossing the street, prompting some to waltz through the crosswalk. The only other place you'll find singing streets is in California, Burnette Edgar said.

Said pedestrian Bob Walsh of Mount Washington as the winged symphony started one day last week: "Now all they need is the Oriole bird out here."

Construction to begin on Westminster Pike

Westminster commuters beware: Part of Route 140 will be closed between Center Street and Railroad Avenue beginning today.

Such a closure will no doubt cause great angst for rush-hour commuters along Westminster Pike -- and the woes are expected to last two months.

Closed will be the left lane westbound, off limits because of bridge work along the Pike. SHA engineers will remove a guardrail and install a new drainage system. The project will include resurfacing the Pike as part of a $3.4 million job by Haverhill Contracting Co. The work is expected to be completed in fall 1999, weather permitting.

Wakeful nights blamed on steel street symphony

Residents of Hillen Road and Woodbourne Avenue have called and written to Intrepid One lamenting noise on their residential streets.

A quick inspection revealed that the intersection of the two streets in Northeast Baltimore is covered with huge steel plates that let out a loud clank each time a vehicle passes.

This amounts to sleeplessness for many living nearby -- almost like having train tracks next to your house.

Baltimore Department of Public Works officials said last week the plates should be removed and the intersection repaved by late next month. The project -- started in September -- includes installation of a new water main.

Too bad residents feel as if they live next to the Port of Baltimore to get it.

Tunnel lane changing makes driver see red

One of Baltimore's premier no-nos is lane changing in its two tunnels.

But commuter Debbie MacArthur claims, " half the time I go [through] the Fort Mac Tunnel, I see vehicles changing lanes inside the tube."

She goes on: "This is dangerous. What can be done to stop these people or get them fined, or something?"

Intrepid checked with Col. Larry Harmel, who heads the Maryland Transportation Authority's police force. Harmel says: If caught, it's a $65 fine and one point against your driver's license.

Police monitor the tunnels with cameras and said the main reason people jump lanes down under is because they get impatient behind a truck.

"It's unsafe and could cause an accident," Harmel said, adding that the practice is not excessive. "We've had -- and I'll knock on wood -- people obey" the ban.

Shortcuts

Prepare for Gridlock Armageddon at the Inner Harbor: Bruce Willis is scheduled to visit Planet Hollywood this month. City officials are in a tizzy to find a red carpet big enough to hold King Bruno's ego. In the meantime, plans are under way to reroute traffic along Pratt Street, which will be closed for the red rug. Your wheelster urges all to check out www.roadrage.com -- home of the latest cyberpsychoanalyses of life in the fast lane. Watch for the closing of Harford Road from 6 a.m. to 5: 15 p.m. Saturday between Glenmore and Echodale avenues for the Hamilton Business Festival. Traffic will be detoured along Walther Boulevard. Farther south on Harford Road, new traffic patters and a new traffic light greet shoppers at a new Safeway, set to open Wednesday. Carroll County commuters can expect "slurry surfacing" work this week on Walnut Grove, Frock and Rockland roads and Hagerstown Lane.

Pub Date: 7/20/98

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