I-70 commuters endure daily doses of gridlock Congestion: Suburban sprawl has led to morning and evening frustration for commuters using Interstate 70 outside the Beltway. Little help is on the horizon.

The Intrepid Commuter

October 26, 1998

INTERSTATE 70 JUST outside the Baltimore Beltway used to be an easy ride. But no more.

Today, the place is a vortex of frustration as commuters get stuck in backups for miles.

Let's blame this one on the horrid sprawl that has crept west toward Frederick for years. It looks as if it's finally karma day in Green Acres. Paybacks are delays of 30 minutes or more during morning and evening rush hours.

Little help is in sight.

The problem, it seems, is multifaceted. In the morning, the Beltway's outer loop heading south is so clogged it backs up onto I-70 -- a dilemma that also jams attempts to enter the Beltway's inner loop.

Afternoons are equally bad. At that time, traffic in the outer loop headed to westbound I-70 stalls into near oblivion.

Both situations are made worse by rude drivers who play highway supremacy and think they can breeze up to the exits and then bully their way into the jammed lanes as drivers sit frozen amid the gridlock.

Your wheelster sought opinions on the problem last week -- and the responses from commuters left the voice-mail machine smoking: "I get on at 8: 15 a.m. and it seems like one day a week, the thing is stopped dead near Route 29 in Howard County," said John McGee.

Keith Kelly lives in Ellicott City and commutes daily to Washington, where traffic delays are ranked among the worst in the nation. Recently, though, he tried to commute to Hunt Valley one morning -- and was shocked at the local scene.

"It took me one hour and 15 minutes, most of which was spent sitting from Route 29 on Interstate 70 to the Beltway," he told Intrepid One.

A Catonsville-area commuter, Lucy Marshall, routinely gets delayed en route to appointments at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She told Intrepid that drivers get so desperate in the I-70 jams, they frequently make stupid, aggressive maneuvers that only make the situation worse.

Randy Beganski, who travels daily from Ellicott City to a job in Timonium, says, "It is getting worse. There are also more accidents. Coming home in the evening, the [Beltway's] right lane backs up well past Liberty Road. People are trying to jump over."

David Wildberger observed: "It has indeed gotten worse. Frankly, the worst part is that I-70 now backs up for a mile or two in the morning. This is something that in my eight to 10 years of driving I've never seen before. And the idea that I-70 backs up has led me to seek all kinds of alternative routes."

State Highway Administration officials are aware of the woes. But -- short of spending millions to realign the highways -- they say they are powerless to offer a solution.

"We are aware of the congestion," says SHA's spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar. "And we do empathize with drivers."

Stories sought from patrons using disability service

In search of: Stories from disabled patrons who rely on Yellow Transportation Inc. for rides. Since August, Yellow has had a $20 million, three-year contract with the Mass Transit Administration to transport disabled riders needing help.

On a busy day, Yellow makes 1,925 trips, and 11,600 riders are certified to use the service for $1.55 one way, officials say.

Your wheelster seeks these tales for possible publication. E-mail Intrepialtsun.com or call the hot line at 410-783-1800, Ext. 4305 (from Anne Arundel County, it's 410-268-7736). Leave name and phone number.

Shortcuts

Election-year manna: Gov. Parris N. Glendening last week fertilized Baltimore's landscape with $165,000 to spruce up U.S. 40 from Monroe to Poppleton streets. The greenbacks will yield new trees and English ivy. In Carroll County, SHA crews have started resurfacing 3.59 miles of Route 140 from Sandymount Road to Leidy Road. Beware of closings at all hours as workers patch the road and make drainage improvements and guardrail adjustments through next spring. In Fells Point, northbound Broadway between Lancaster and Thames streets will be closed through mid-December for rejuvenation. Traffic will detour on Ann and Aliceanna streets.

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: 10/26/98

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