Big trucks' city-street shortcuts rile residents

November 20, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- Large trucks use Bonaparte Avenue in East Baltimore even though doing so is prohibited.

THE BACKSTORY -- Bonaparte Avenue is a residential street that runs through the East Baltimore-Midway neighborhood. Truck drivers seem to like it as a convenient shortcut to industries at the eastern edge of the city, ignoring signs that bar them from using the road.

"The trucks are shaking our houses and knocking our pictures off the walls," said John D. Brown, who has lived on Bonaparte for 21 years. "We've called 311 many times to no avail. The trucks just go all day long, off and on, all day long."

Baltimore police do enforcement stings to catch trucks rumbling on city streets from which they are barred. The most visible is the yearly crackdown on Boston Street in an operation dubbed Shake, Rattle and Roll. Truckers use Boston Street to avoid tolls and the long trek around the Beltway.

Brown said he is convinced that police concentrate on routes such as Boston Street, which go through affluent Canton, and ignore the inner city where he lives. "They don't come here because of the neighborhood," he said, adding in an e-mail, "If this incident happened in Roland Park or Guilford or Federal Hill, something would have been done immediately."

Watchdog has no way of knowing whether Brown's street is not getting as robust enforcement as he would like because of where it is situated. How to allocate limited police resources can be debated forever.

Sterling Clifford, the spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said trucks illegally using Bonaparte Avenue "is an ongoing problem" and that his department is getting help from the Maryland Transportation Authority to do more enforcement on city streets.

He denied preferential treatment in how the rules are enforced but said there is a significant problem on Boston Street and that the no-trucking-zone law can be used to go after other crimes. Clifford said various police agencies do regular enforcement and patrols "to discourage truck traffic in areas where truck traffic is prohibited."

The spokesman advised residents to copy down license plate numbers of offending trucks and report them to 311. That is exactly what Brown said he was told to do by his city councilman. "That's just about impossible because they're driving so fast," he said.

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Clifford declined to say who in the Police Department was responsible for this issue, saying that not only is it part of the traffic enforcement unit but also must be dealt with by patrol officers and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.


In September, we wrote about a hole in the ground near the BWI Trail along Route 170. The State Highway Administration said a rusted 42-inch pipe that runs under the road caused water to leak and carve out the hole. David Buck, an SHA spokesman, said engineers are awaiting environmental permits so they can make repairs.

He said the road is not in danger of caving in, and the hole hasn't gotten any worse since it was first reported in September. "The safety fence is in good shape and should keep people out of there," Buck said. "Hopefully nobody thinks to do anything silly and walk through."

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