Heat puts the hurt on a busy intersection in the city

Sizzling temperatures force closure, emergency repairs

August 05, 2005|By William Wan | William Wan,SUN STAFF

As if the sweat stains, heat strokes and enormous electric bills weren't enough, the heat this summer has been so fierce that it ruined the asphalt on a busy Baltimore street corner.

The city transportation department closed the intersection of Baltimore and Eutaw streets yesterday for emergency repairs, blaming the recent spell of sizzling temperatures that, in the past month alone, hit 90 degrees or higher on 14 of 31 days. Yesterday, temperatures reached 98 degrees at the Inner Harbor.

The heat had softened the intersection's asphalt, city officials said, causing it to squish under trucks and heavy vehicles. Then, as the temperature cooled at night, the soft asphalt hardened into bumpy ridges.

"This has been a tough summer, heatwise," said David Brown, spokesman for the transportation department. "It got so bad at this intersection, we decided to resurface that whole area."

So yesterday, the intersection and surrounding blocks just north of Camden Yards were partially closed as repair crews tore out the ruined asphalt and replaced it with a stronger combination of concrete and asphalt.

As workers smoothed the wet, new pavement, the afternoon's rush hour traffic backed up on Baltimore Street, which was reduced to a single lane. Some drivers spent their wait in traffic watching the slow churn of a concrete truck idling in the middle of Eutaw Street.

From a nearby corner, Lennis Mullins, 69, shook his head in sympathy at the workers laboring under the hot sun.

"This heat is just killing us," Mullins said as he waited for a bus. "I guess even the roads are feeling it."

The summer heat has been blamed for at least 11 deaths in Maryland, set electricity records, triggered large blackouts and closed schools.

The season began harmlessly enough with the third-coolest May on record in Baltimore. Then, with the beginning of June, came a furnace blast of hot air that continued almost non-stop until last week. It broke briefly last weekend, only to return this week.

Sweating in the sun for a bus that couldn't come soon enough, Mullins railed against the sun and the weather before giving up with a sigh: "In the end, you got to cope with it one way or the other."

But the Dundalk resident said he was glad the heat had forced the city to repave the corner.

"The intersection was getting pretty bad the last few years," he said. "And you can feel every bump, riding on the bus."

Transportation officials hoped to finish the resurfacing by tomorrow morning, and expected to fully reopen the intersection tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, inspectors are checking other streets, the transportation department said, to see if the heat has caused more asphalt problems.

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