State prepares to dig out of holes Winter: A colder season has been predicted, and area officials are ready to deal with the potholes often caused by snowfall.

The Intrepid Commuter

October 05, 1998

YOUR WHEELSTER checked in with the online version of the Old Farmer's Almanac last week to find mixed feelings about the coming winter.

Predicted is a winter that will be colder than usual -- although the Mid-Atlantic region is facing "below normal" snowfall.

One of the biggest woes of snow is the pothole. Last year, despite a mild winter, Baltimore Department of Public Works crews patched 35,000 potholes, a figure that was 68,000 in 1997 and -- in blizzard-marred 1996 -- 140,596.

An investigation by Intrepid revealed that pothole patrols love to use a gooey substance called Perma Patch. It's a mix of asphalt and gravel that sells for about $45 per ton and seems to be the darling of road repair crews.

Baltimore County highways chief Charles R. Harrison told your wheelster last week that his department is preparing for winter by stocking up on salt and the patch. The department is in the midst of an aggressive attack on the county's 2,500 miles of roadway to thwart potholes by wiping out bad conditions that lead to the bumps.

Last year, county crews used the patch to repair most of the 1,859 holes filled. And hold the phone. Towson bureaucrats plan to spend $19.5 million on road surfacing by 2002 as part of the preventive plan.

Dealers deflate requests to switch off air bags

Frederick's Margaret Brown decided she wanted an air-bag shut-off switch.

Problem is, she had to go to Mansfield, Texas, to get it.

Car dealers and auto shops told her they couldn't get the part, couldn't install it or were afraid of lawsuits.

So she turned to a company in the Longhorn state that recently flew a technician to her house and installed a switch for $300.

That house call sparked Brown to turn entrepreneurial. She recently started her own business, which has logged switches on more than 20 vehicles from Long Island, N.Y., to Chapel Hill, N.C., for between $295 and $340, depending on travel costs.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration authorized shut-off switches last year for people who must drive with less than 10 inches between their steering wheel and their breastbone, or for those who transport children through age 12 in the front passenger seat.

What has followed is a national dilemma for those who want to deflate the bags -- which are known to have saved thousands of lives in crashes. Federal statistics show that of the 46,494 switches authorized since September 1997, only 2,575 have been installed.

At least 113 Americans, including 66 children, have been killed by air bags, according to the agency. Others have been injured when they deploy at split-second speed.

Construction woes seem near an end

Intrepid has highlighted endless construction woes at Hillen Road and Woodbourne Avenue -- and continues to be dismayed at the sluggish progress there.

Last week, a neighbor called to complain about the mess. It's so bad, says Thomas Hallinger, that should he win the state lottery, he would use his newfound riches to pay for Woodbourne's repairs, which have left motorists rocking over steel grates and rolling over bumpy road patches for nearly a year.

Baltimore Department of Public Works officials -- who promised an end to the dilemma by September -- said last week that work crews should finish by the end of this month.

Shortcuts

In north Howard County, motorists turning into Mount Hebron and The Orchards communities will get a little relief. State Highway Administration engineers have added an eastbound right-hand passing area at the turnoff point for Tiller Drive near Old Frederick Road. And there's more: The state is extending the westbound merging lane from near U.S. 29 past the turn for Melba Road. Carroll County's Tyrone Road between Route 140 and Route 832 will be paved this week. Drivers beware. City traffic engineers will conduct traffic studies at three intersections of Cold Spring Lane to see if additional signals are needed. The hot spots are: Charles Street and Harford and Reisterstown roads.

Keep in touch

You can mail, send by fax or call in questions or comments for the Intrepid Commuter. Here's how:

* Mail letters -- The Sun, 109 Allegheny Ave., Towson 21204.

* E-mail: Intrepialtsun.com.

* Call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service. 410-783-1800, enter Ext. 4305. From Anne Arundel County, dial 410-268-7736.

Pub Date: 10/05/98

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