No signals makes for walk on the wild side

WATCHDOG

April 10, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- The pedestrian walk lights at West Fayette and Liberty streets, a block north of the Baltimore Arena, have not been working for some time.

THE BACKSTORY -- Kevin Cross, who works in the Mercantile building, wrote to Watchdog that he sometimes walks from his office to Shane's sandwich shop. But, he says, that little outing is dangerous. Cross says none of the pedestrian signals at the intersection have worked for a year, despite repeated complaints to the city's Department of Transportation and mayor.

"They informed me that a circuit was out and they would fix it," Cross wrote in an e-mail March 29. "They're still not working."

Watchdog visited the intersection last Tuesday and found the signals were indeed out. People carrying briefcases and lunches dashed across several lanes of Liberty and West Fayette, dodging cars and pausing at honking horns.

The most perilous spot crossing Liberty Street is at the southern corner. Cars turning left off Fayette don't stop, and to further confuse matters, an access road for a hotel dumps cars into the intersection as well, creating even more havoc when the light turns green.

On the visit by Watchdog, three sets of pedestrian lights and three corners were dark. On one corner, there was no pedestrian signal.

David Brown, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation, says the problem involves underground steam, which is corroding the insulation of the power cables to the pedestrian signals. "The steam is causing the cable to short-circuit," Brown said yesterday.

While Trigen, the company that operates the 16 miles of downtown steam tunnels, is spending millions to upgrade its system and reduce the leaking steam, Brown said city officials are considering "running overhead cables to supply power to the pedestrian signals, at least on a temporary basis."

A decision on whether to move forward with overhead lines could be made this week, Brown said yesterday.

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Felicia Oliver, chief of the city Department of Transportation's traffic division, 410-396-6905, or 311.

UPDATE

A recent item on the broken clock and bells at the Curran Memorial Bell Tower in Govans continues to bring responses. The plan is to move the bells to a prayer garden at Stadium Place in Waverly and refurbish the clock.

But Peg Massey, who first asked Watchdog to discover why the tower was in disrepair, doesn't like the solution that would move the bells to the Memorial Stadium site.

"There is a wrong message being sent to the community that it is being dismantled but the broken clock will stay," Massey wrote in an e-mail. (The Curran family says the clock will be repaired.) "There has to be some consideration as to how it would help the community have a sense of place & pride. Now people just pass by & don't pay attention. I would hope that a letter be sent to the Curran family asking them to reconsider."

On another note, Watchdog has to make a correction. We reported last week that the gate to a community-built playground on the site of Memorial Stadium was locked March 11. It was locked the morning of March 25. Watchdog apologizes.

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