Harbor access too easy

WATCHDOG

Readers wonder why no barriers exist behind the Power Plant to keep errant motorists from driving off the pier and into water

November 09, 2008|By Liz F. Kay

THE PROBLEM : The roadway behind the Power Plant lacks barriers along the Inner Harbor.

THE BACKSTORY: Downtown workers got a telling demonstration of how important it is to take care when driving near the Inner Harbor. On Oct. 30, eyewitnesses say the driver of a Lincoln Navigator drove at high speed down Market Place, across Pratt Street behind the Power Plant and right off the pier. The driver got himself out of the SUV, and firefighters spent the morning removing the vehicle from the water.

The incident prompted some readers to ask why there isn't a barricade to prevent such accidents. Ryan Orzech, whose office overlooks Dugan's Wharf on the east side of Pier IV, said he has walked on that access road many times and saw the accident. The pilings at the water's edge are only 2 feet above street level and about 15 feet apart, he said.

He wrote in an e-mail that he recently saw a van that needed to be towed after one of its wheels ran off the edge of the pier. Given the number of delivery trucks that use the area, "it seems ridiculous not to have some form of a barrier wall or at the least extend the pilings," he wrote.

Fencing lines the edge of the harbor along Pratt Street, but not along the strip of roadway behind the pier. The city Transportation Department maintains the Inner Harbor promenade as part of its role on the Inner Harbor Task Force, and also makes recommendations for safety improvements, said spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes.

"To our knowledge, no mishaps have been reported in this area," Barnes said, describing the SUV in the harbor as an isolated incident.

Transportation officials noted that a sign next to Dugan's Wharf states that the roadway is for loading only, and another sign will be posted on the traffic signal stating that the road is open for local deliveries only, she said. They also plan to survey the area for a longer period to determine whether other changes are needed.

WHO CAN FIX THIS: Randall Scott, chief of the traffic division, Baltimore Department of Transportation, 443-984-2150.

Liz F. Kay

update

Baltimore housing officials have determined a house on East Chase Street highlighted in September in Watchdog must be demolished. Owner Bobby Chen says his house, at 1622 E. Chase St., was damaged when housing officials knocked down the house next door. Now the department has determined that Chen's building is unsafe and must be demolished as well. Cheron Porter, a Housing and Community Development spokeswoman, said the agency tried to contact Chen to no avail and that the house will be razed this week. Chen did not return several calls from Watchdog for comment.

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