Illegally parked trucks tie up rush hour

WATCHDOG

December 19, 2006

THE PROBLEM -- Delivery trucks and construction vehicles routinely block the left lane of Calvert Street north of Pratt Street near Baltimore's Inner Harbor. This narrows a central route into downtown and causes traffic problems, sometimes backing cars onto Interstate 395 during the morning rush hour.

THE BACKSTORY -- There are several no-parking and no-stopping signs along Calvert Street between Pratt and Baltimore streets, warning that illegally parked vehicles will be towed. The traffic problem is made worse by construction that takes up a lane of Calvert Street in that area.

Theresa Webb, manager of permits and regulations for the Baltimore Parking Authority, expressed amazement that trucks have turned a portion of Calvert Street into a parking space. "No trucks should stop there, especially during rush hour," she said. "I can't believe a truck driver would do that."

Webb told Watchdog that she sent a memo Wednesday to the city's Department of Transportation, urging more enforcement. The next day at 8 a.m., parking control agent Pasaua Smith ticketed two delivery trucks parked in the left lane of Calvert between Pratt and Lombard streets.

"It's clearly marked `no parking,'" Smith said as she stretched to reach the cab's windshield, where she stuck a $42 ticket under a wiper blade. Gesturing toward the line of cars building on Light Street, she said of the trucks: "They're blocking traffic all the way down."

David Brown, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said that enforcement of parking regulations is a priority. "We don't want to impede traffic during peak times," he said.

One of the trucks ticketed Thursday belongs to Leonard Paper Co. in East Baltimore. Tom Szymanski, the company's traffic manager, said parking tickets have become the cost of doing business in the city. He complained that motorists routinely park in loading zone areas, forcing his drivers to park illegally to meet tight schedules.

"I was a driver for 27 years and one of the worst places to park is in Washington and Baltimore City," he said. "Our drivers have to make stops in the morning, and they park where they find the best place. If they get a ticket, it's unfortunate. But it's not like they are there for five or six hours. A normal delivery takes 20 minutes."

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Kenneth Strong, chief of the Department of Transportation's safety division: 410-396-6802.

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