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News Maryland Baltimore County Towson

GPS confusion makes Towson neighborhood a truck stop on the road to Dundalk

Idlewylde residents knew what they signed up for when they bought homes in the small Towson neighborhood, where yards are small and streets are narrow.

Out-of-state truck drivers, however, can't say the same. In recent years, big rigs have rolled through yards and fences after trying to navigate Beechwood Road — by mistake.

Residents say global positioning systems — perhaps combined with typing errors — have resulted in confusion between Beechwood Road in Towson and Beachwood Road in Dundalk, and on several occasions have sent truckers to the small Idlewylde enclave instead of the commercial district on the east side of the county.

Virginia Aleksalza, a resident of Beechwood, said her first encounter with a wayward truck occurred on Sept. 6, 2011. A second truck rumbled through the neighborhood on Aug. 7 of this year, and most recently, a tractor trailer got stuck on Oct. 18.

"I didn't bother (reporting it to the county) the first time because I thought it was just a fluke," she said, "but three times within 13 months is a lot."

Fifth District County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said last week that his office and Baltimore County Public Works are taking steps designed to keep out-of-state tractor trailer drivers headed for their intended destination, and not the narrow streets Idlewylde.

Idlewylde Community Association President Tom Lattanzi has been working with Marks, and said in an email to his fellow residents that the confusion is likely created when truckers misspell Beachwood Road while inputting the destination into a GPS system.

Instead of correcting the address or coming up empty on the search, the systems can guide drivers off Interestate 695, down Loch Raven Boulevard, onto Regester Avenue and into Idlewylde, where they find no warehouses ... but plenty of small roads lined with parked cars.

According to Marks, many of the trucks are headed to a Universal Trade Solutions warehouse, located near Back River in the 4000 block of Beachwood Avenue. In an email, he said the August incident involved a 53-foot-long truck carrying 75,000 pounds of aluminum. Lattanzi said the truck stuck in October was carrying Uranium.

Aleksalza said that in the two most recent incidents, neighbors had fences broken. She said the situation is complicated by cars parked on the side of the street, and also by telephone poles, which often trap the long trucks halfway down the street. In order to avoid bringing down poles, the truckers have to turn their wheels back and forth trying to maneuver around her front yard, she said.

"Every time they go in, they're heavy, and this last time and the time before that, it was muddy," Aleksalza said. "I've had at least 12-inch grooves in my lawn."

Each instance has resulted in hundreds of dollars in insurance claims, she said..

Marks said the county public works officials have agreed to rename the 4000 block of Beachwood Road in Dundalk as Universal Trade Drive in hopes of alleviating the confusion. In addition, the county will place signs noting the prohibition of tractor trailers at the corner of Beechwood Road and Overbrook Road, as well as on St. Albans Road and Overbrook Road in Idlewylde.

It might take time for GPS to catch up, though, and so Marks said the Maryland Department of Transportation will also reach out to the Maryland Motor Truck Association to inform drivers of the changes.

"We really appreciate Councilman Marks and county traffic engineering's not only doing this, but also the speed with which they have resolved our dilemma," said Lattanzi.

Aleksalza is appreciative too, though she hopes the steps take hold before Beechwood and Beachwood get confused again.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the signs go up before the trucks come through again," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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