Moving violations

December 09, 2005

You don't have to be in Baltimore long to wait for an eternity behind the wheel of your car at a traffic light; to get a green light, only to be stopped at the next corner, and the next, and the next, by red lights; to honk furiously at the slow first car at the left turn signal because even a second's delay means that you might not get through on that light and would be condemned to sit through another three- or four-minute cycle; or to just miss being hit (either in your car or as a pedestrian) by someone running a red light, probably because he or she refused to wait for another light cycle.

If any of this sounds frustratingly familiar, help may be on the way. It can't come soon enough.

Motorists here spend an average of 48 hours a year in traffic, according to one study last year that ranked Baltimore among the nation's 20 most congested cities. After years of complaints, the city is getting some serious high-tech gear, including new control boxes at nearly three-quarters of its 1,300 traffic signals.

Computers, cameras and a centralized control operation will allow officials to monitor trouble spots and relieve congestion by quickly changing signals. About 80 percent of the more than $20 million upgrade will be paid for by the federal government. But the city's share is a reasonable investment (along with more mass transit) to keep traffic moving in increasingly dense commercial and residential areas.

We understand the concerns of some City Council members who worry that speeding up traffic might sacrifice safety for efficiency. But drivers might be more inclined to concentrate on safety when they're not fuming at inefficient traffic lights.

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