Untwisting the tangle on Lombard Street

WATCH DOG

June 03, 2008|By LIZ F. KAY

The problem: A lane closure on Lombard Street in downtown Baltimore is causing motorists to suddenly merge right into a busy lane of traffic to continue toward Greene Street.

The backstory: Jacob A. Liss, who carpools from his home in Ridgely's Delight to his Hunt Valley office, has a standing joke with his fellow riders.

The left lane of Lombard Street between Paca and Greene streets has been blocked for several months because of construction on a University of Maryland building. But there were no markings to alert drivers that traffic should shift to the right west of Paca Street.

Drivers in the next lane over often proceeded straight through the traffic light, making it difficult for other cars to merge.

Driving in the left lane, Liss said, he often finds himself having to yield to other motorists in order to go straight. "It's gotten to the point where people joke about it," he says. To make matters worse, construction eliminated one of the left-turn lanes from Lombard Street onto Greene Street, so he has to stay to the left to turn there.

After a call from Watchdog last week, traffic engineers for Baltimore's Transportation Department reviewed the construction contractors' traffic maintenance accommodations.

"When there's construction work going on, they are responsible for making sure that traffic is maintained in a safe manner," said spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes.

City transportation officials also visually inspect traffic conditions. "If it's not done to the specs of roadway safety, we do things to make sure the traffic pattern is safe," Barnes said.

The officials found the intersection needed new lane lines and guidelines. Transportation personnel installed them Saturday, she said.

"We basically found that that location may be a little confusing," she said. "... It's real clear now as to what lane you're in and what lane is to be followed."

Who can fix this: For similar problems, city residents can call Felicia Shelton, traffic division chief for the Department of Transportation, at 443-984-2150. Residents can also call 311 to report problems.

Liz F. Kay

UPDATE

Earlier this year, Watchdog reported that the signs posted in the "stadium event restricted area" near Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium are so confusing that even a Baltimore judge agreed that the message was not clear.

With the summer sports season well under way, Baltimore's Department of Transportation is discussing changes to the parking signs with the Baltimore Parking Authority, which oversees the city's residential parking program. The confusion stems from the signs' twin messages: a parking ban for nonresidents during stadium events and parking restrictions at other times.

Once they finalize the new language, officials will meet with residents about the proposed changes, said transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes.

"We do realize that there are some changes that need to be made with the signs," Barnes said. "It's a little confusing to motorists. We want to be sure that everyone understands what those signs mean."

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