Walker Avenue speed humps raise ire

WATCHDOG

August 21, 2007

THE PROBLEM

Three speed humps on Walker Avenue in North Baltimore appear too high for cars to safely traverse, even at slow seeds.

THE BACKSTORY

The speed limit on Walker Avenue, a winding and hilly residential street at the far northern edge of the city, is 25 mph. To drive the point home, the city installed three speed humps between The Alameda and Leith Walk.

They are called "humps" for a reason. Each is about 12 feet wide. But it is the height of the hump that has raised the ire of Walker Avenue resident Nancy M. Monti.

She drives a 1997 Dodge Neon. "The safest speed I have found to cross over them is 8 mph," she wrote in an e-mail, adding in a later conversation, "If you come at the humps even going down to 15, you can do something to your car."

Watchdog turned to the Institute of Transportation Engineers to determine just how high a hump should be. Speed humps, the group says, are typically 12 to 14 feet wide. But the group says the height should be around 3 1/2 inches, over which a car should be able to safely travel at 19 mph.

The highest hump, in one spot, is higher than the 5-inch curb.

If the intent is to slow traffic to a crawl, the humps work fine, and who can blame the good residents of Walker Avenue who don't want cars flying down their quiet street?

Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation, said speeding has been a problem on Walker Avenue and that the humps were intentionally built higher than the city's 3-inch rule.

"Walker Avenue is an unusual road," she said. "We wanted to slow people down, so the humps were not built to our normal standard. We are going to go back and inspect those humps to make sure they aren't a safety hazard or causing any damage."

At the very least, Barnes said, the city will install new signs to warn motorists that the humps are higher than people might expect.

WHO CAN FIX THIS

Richard Hooper, whose traffic division is in charge of installing speed humps, 410-396-1686.

UPDATE

This month, the railroad company CSX Transportation agreed to work with the city to decide how to pay for and improve five "structurally deficient" bridges in Baltimore, after the deadly collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis.

That reminded Watchdog of the broken fence at the end of South Charles Street, first reported in April, that allows access to the CSX right of way in South Baltimore. Residents have complained about increased drug dealing and prostitution and of the dangers posed to children who can walk onto the tracks.

CSX has not responded to pleas to make repairs. Watchdog, observing the fence was still open Sunday evening, called CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan for an update. He promised to look into the matter but did not get back to Watchdog by yesterday evening.

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