Storage yards for roadwork are unsightly

WATCHDOG

June 12, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- A State Highway Administration work yard off Liberty Road at the Baltimore Beltway interchange is unsightly.

THE BACKSTORY -- A few years ago, the State Highway Administration began upgrades on the Liberty Road interchange of Interstate 695. Two fenced-in storage yards for equipment are on a grassy area within the loops of two entrance ramps and can clearly be seen from busy Liberty Road.

Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, wants the yards removed. He wrote to Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari and copied the letter to The Sun and three community newspapers.

"Nowhere else along the 695 Interstate interchange have I seen such an ungainly and unsightly public storage area," the letter says. He added in an interview, "It's a residential area, not a dump."

Watchdog visited the area last week and saw the lots; one contained a backhoe and a portable toilet. Could a gateway to the city be a repository for portable toilets?

Not a chance, said SHA spokesman David Buck.

Work crews have been at the interchange for three years, first to improve the on- and off-ramps and now to upgrade Liberty Road to make it safer for pedestrians. said Buck. The staging area is on state land, and Buck said there is simply no other place to put the equipment.

"Clearly we want to stay as far away from homes and businesses as we can," Buck said. "It is a challenge. We are very limited as to where we can put a trailer." Buck acknowledged that the trucks and portable toilets are not very attractive. "This is the best of what is not a great situation," he said, noting that work should be done by the end of the summer.

Then, he said, "It will be cleaned up and we'll be out of there."

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- David Malkowski, SHA district engineer, 410-321-2800.

UPDATE

The gap in the fence along CSX tracks at the end of Charles Street in South Baltimore, first reported here April 17, still has not been fixed.

Last week, CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said in this column that the fence has been repeatedly cut and indicated that a solution might not be in the offing.

That drew this response from Jim Salvucci, president of the South Baltimore Improvement Committee:

"As you know, the hole in this fence gives prostitutes and drug dealers access to the tracks at night," he wrote in an e-mail. "What is worse, we have many children in the area, and this rather inviting breach is well hidden from parental eyes.

"The proper approach would be for CSX to repair the fence every time it is torn down at this spot and anywhere else along its property. Doing so quickly and repeatedly would frustrate the vandals, and the problem would go away."

Watchdog will keep watching.

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