Light rail crossing hazardous to drivers

WATCHDOG

March 20, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- A light rail crossing in Hunt Valley lacks a gate, meaning motorists can cross the tracks even when a train is coming. THE BACKSTORY -- The light rail winds through the Metropolitan Industrial Park in Hunt Valley, criss-crossing roads in what can be a dangerous dance between train and car.

Many driveways to businesses are unguarded, except for flashing red lights to warn of oncoming trains. On Feb. 9, six people were injured when a truck driver crossed the tracks and was hit by a train at Gilroy Road and Schilling Circle.

Another crossing farther south, near Gilroy and Beaver Dam Road, seems to be an accident waiting to happen. The light rail tracks run parallel to Gilroy, which crosses Beaver Dam several feet to the west. A gate stops cars heading east and west on Beaver Dam Road, but there are no such controls on Gilroy.

So even when the gate is down, blocking traffic on Beaver Dam, where it crosses Gilroy, there is nothing to stop a motorist on Gilroy from turning onto eastbound Beaver Dam Road and crossing the tracks.

"In the past month, I have witnessed two vehicles turning right across the tracks when the gates were down, and the second one made it within seconds of the train coming through," Aileen M. Kammer wrote to the Watchdog.

Sharon DeHaney, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transit Administration, said that drivers turning from Gilroy onto eastbound Beaver Dam Road "are making left and right turns illegally, and it is clearly stated." In an e-mail, DeHaney said: "Traffic signals control the Gilroy Road access points with `no turn' signals, left and right, depending on which direction the vehicle is traveling."

The spokeswoman said the issue will be forwarded to engineers to further study the intersection to make sure it is safe. WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Vernon Hartsock, deputy director of engineering for the MTA: 410-767-3323.

UPDATE

The source of a three-year-old water leak from a manhole cover in the Pulaski Industrial Park in Middle River has been found. Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works, said a faulty valve had been paved over by a Baltimore County utility company and that a public works crew made repairs Saturday.

But Kocher said groundwater is still seeping to the surface. The industrial park owner, Kimko Realty Corp., is responsible for addressing that problem, he said. The company's regional office in Lutherville is at 410-684-2000.

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