Crews replace damaged cables to put rush hour back in sync

Lights disrupted by fire may be aligned Monday

September 25, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Baltimore drivers like commuter Anne Faulkner have been seeing red all week - red lights, that is.

The underground electrical fire that knocked out power to a 25-square-block swath of downtown Monday also damaged the computerized system that synchronizes traffic signals at 220 intersections throughout a much larger area of the city.

City Transportation Department officials said yesterday that crews will be working through the weekend.

"We are shooting for Monday morning" to fix the signals, said Kathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation.

This week, the trek through downtown has been torturous, with motorists rarely seeing green lights at more than one intersection at a time.

Commuter `nightmare'

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard "was a nightmare," said Faulkner, a Baltimore County social worker who lives in Federal Hill. "I couldn't go from one block to the next without stopping at every light. All of those lights were out of whack."

The traffic headaches began Monday morning when a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. wire caught fire beneath Guilford Avenue and Fayette Street.

Besides knocking out power, the fire zapped the cables that control the synchronization of traffic lights from Haven Street on the east to Washington Boulevard on the west, and from Orleans Street on the north to O'Donnell Street on the south.

Transportation Department spokesman David Brown thanked commuters for enduring the heavy traffic.

"They're doing a fantastic job bearing with us," he said. "They should be commended for the manner in which they handled the congestion."

Time-consuming work

City crews worked yesterday to bypass the fire area at Guilford Avenue by threading new cables along an alternate route to connect them to the synchronization control room at 414 N. Calvert St.

Each of the two new cables being installed in underground ducts contains 50 smaller conductors, officials said.

The process will take all weekend, and each conductor must be tested before being connected to the synchronization mainframe.

Once the bypass is finished, the traffic lights at the 220 intersections will become synchronized, officials said.

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