The satisfaction of Getting There

GETTING THERE

April 06, 2009|By MICHAEL DRESSER | MICHAEL DRESSER,gettingthere@baltsun.com

Sometimes, in small ways, this Getting There gig is downright gratifying. Particularly when it can help a reader get something fixed.

One example is an e-mail that came Feb. 16 from Crossan McDonald of Baltimore.

For me one of the most hazardous stretches of road that I travel is Keith Avenue, the connector between Interstate 95 [the first exit after the Fort McHenry toll booth] and Broening Highway.

To properly appreciate the problems, one has to travel this road at night. On any given evening, over half of the street lights are out of service, and the white paint lane markers are so faint that they are barely visible. I usually have to use high beams to see where I am going.

The road's lighting has been in poor repair for years, and I keep hoping someone will fix it, but it seems that no one feels as terrified as I do.

It turns out that Keith Avenue, an efficient shortcut between I-95 and the Dundalk and Seagirt marine terminals, falls under the jurisdiction of the city. I passed the complaint along to the Baltimore Department of Transportation, which delivered. Spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes said workers replaced 34 burnt-out lights on that stretch of road.

Barnes said a call to 311 would have yielded the same result as a call from The Baltimore Sun. Readers are invited to test that assertion and let me know the results.

The spokeswoman said the city appreciates such alerts from motorists. She confirmed my suspicion that the city tends to get fewer calls about industrial areas than residential areas. So alerts from places such as Keith Avenue are especially welcome.

I passed this news along to McDonald, who reported back March 3. He wrote: "I drove Keith Avenue a couple of nights ago, and, much to my surprise, the lights had been replaced, and I could actually see the road. Thank you for your help."

That's not all. Last Wednesday, the city announced its intention to close Keith Avenue over the weekend for additional streetlight work. Barnes said the avenue should be fully lit by the time you read this. Thank McDonald.

Benjamin Rosenberg of Baltimore also weighed in last month with a question involving city lights.

There are literally dozens of non-working street lamps on both sides of the Jones Falls Expressway and many of the bridges over the highway. The result is significant stretches of unlit or poorly illuminated roadway. These areas include virtually the entire portion of the JFX that lies within the city limits - from Northern Parkway to Fayette Street. Can anything be done about this?

It just so happened that Rosenberg raised his concern as I was about to have a meeting March 27 with Frank J. Murphy, the city Transportation Department's acting deputy director for operations.

Murphy said the city does not typically change a light every time a bulb burns out on the JFX because it involves lane closings and traffic disruptions. Instead, his agency waits until it has a certain level of burnouts and then fixes them in a batch - usually on a weekend to cut down on backups. He added that about a week before Rosenberg weighed in, officials decided things were at a point where a round of light-changings was needed.

It didn't take too long to get results. Rosenberg e-mailed again last Monday to say he had checked the JFX lights the night before.

"Lo and behold, many of the burnt-out lights were working," he wrote.

A few weeks back, this column reported on the plight of a MARC train rider who was left freezing on the West Baltimore station platform waiting for a train that was delayed for about an hour. She and her fellow riders were cut off from information from the Maryland Transit Administration because the public-address system at the station had been out of commission for months. At the time, the MTA said it intended to replace MARC's aging squawk boxes using funds from the Obama administration's stimulus funds.

Now, it appears, the money is coming through. The state Board of Public Works approved a $6 million contract last week for replacement of "obsolete and unreliable" public-address systems at West Baltimore, Halethorpe and other MARC stations. Construction is expected to begin late this month.

Blog on

This column takes to the blogosphere on Tuesday with the launch of Getting There: The Blog at baltimoresun.com. Hope to see you there. I'll still be here as well.

no reimer

Susan Reimer's column does not appear today.

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