Watchdog: Missing pedestrian button makes Mount Washington crossing risky

  • This pedestrian signal button post in Mount Washington was knocked down and took weeks to replace.
This pedestrian signal button post in Mount Washington was… (Liz Kay, Baltimore Sun )
April 30, 2011|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

The problem: A pedestrian signal button in Mount Washington was knocked down and never replaced.

The back story: Jon Merryman often takes matters into his own hands — including trash.

The Catonsville resident said he spends the hours while his son swims at Meadowbrook Aquatic Center wandering around Mount Washington, picking up garbage that would otherwise end up in the Jones Falls.

These travels recently became more treacherous. A pedestrian signal button post on the southwest corner of Falls Road and Kelly Avenue had been knocked down during the winter.

For a while, you could still reach down and press the button on the fallen post, Merryman said. But then, the short post itself disappeared about a month ago. And for some reason, the signal button also stopped working for those crossing Kelly Avenue from the southwest corner.

Without the signals, pedestrians had to wait for a break in traffic and run for it.

"Really, the traffic doesn't stop," Merryman said. "Even when there's a red light, they just keep blowing through it."

He waited for a while, assuming the post's departure meant that a replacement was on the way. But none arrived.

So, he sent an email several weeks ago to a general Baltimore Department of Transportation address to report the issue. "I was trying to be smart and get it closest to the right department as I could," Merryman said.

He received a reply indicating that the agency had received his email, but it hadn't been repaired.

Merryman had also sent his note to Watchdog, who last week discovered firsthand how difficult crossing Kelly Avenue can be without a working pedestrian signal button.

Watchdog contacted the Transportation Department and was informed about 24 hours later that the signal button had been replaced and its companion fixed Thursday.

The problem had already been on the agency's radar, according to transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes, and was scheduled to be addressed before the end of the month.

There are thousands of similar buttons across the city, Barnes said. Most stand only 4 feet from the curb, so they are vulnerable to damage from traffic collisions, as well as vandalism and rodent infestation, she said.

Normally, residents use the transportation email address that Merryman messaged to inquire about broader issues or to get updates on a project, not to report a problem, Barnes said.

"In the future I would advise people that if they are not receiving a response, the next thing is to go to 311," Barnes said.

As a county resident, Merryman said he didn't know about the 311 call service, or about its online reporting counterpart,

Barnes also asked residents for patience after they report a problem to 311. "You've got to give us time," she said. "We might have needed a part or something like that."

Who can fix this: Randall Scott, the Department of Transportation's traffic division chief, 443-984-2150. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

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