Shining light on Beltway's dark patch

WATCHDOG

November 21, 2006

THE PROBLEM -- Lights are out on Interstate 695 - the Baltimore Beltway - between the two Interstate 83 interchanges, and motorist David Richardson from Timonium says it is dangerous at night.

THE BACK STORY -- This problem is due to a $19 million construction project that began in 2004 to repair, and in some cases rebuild, up to five bridges near where I-83 intersects the inner and outer loops of the Beltway.

Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said that electrical conduits and lights had to be moved and upgraded - some of the lights are the ones originally installed when the Beltway was built in the 1960s. Gischlar said some lights, particularly those on the Beltway's outer loop - do work sporadically.

He said engineers have determined that ambient lighting and headlights are sufficient to meet safety standards until the project is completed in two months. "By February, it will be a lot more illuminated," Gischlar said. "We're working on the problem."

WHO CAN FIX IT -- Several construction managers are responsible for the lights, depending on their location and whether the outage is due to the construction project or some other problem. Gischlar asks that callers be specific so that they can be directed to the appropriate person. The district engineer responsible for Baltimore County is David Malkowski, 410-321-2800.

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