Bolton Hill residents urge study of 'dangerous' intersection

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A view looking northwest from the Memorial Apartments in Bolton Hill toward McMechen Street, which is divided by a grassy median.

The residents of the Memorial Apartments in Bolton Hill first started complaining about the intersection in front of the complex when a firetruck was broadsided four years ago.

The intersection is dangerous, they told City Hall. Its wide median, poor signage and confusing design are causing frequent accidents to occur at the corner of McMechen Street and Eutaw Place, where schoolchildren and many senior citizens cross the street.


The collisions continued — including eight in the past 12 weeks. Last month, when a 73-year-old man riding a mobility scooter was struck and nearly killed, they'd had enough. "This is a very, very dangerous corner," said Edward Smith Jr., 72, who lives in the apartment complex for the elderly. "Something has got to change."

More than 100 residents signed a letter demanding that city government study the intersection and look for ways to make it safer. At a meeting this week, city transportation officials told the group they would do that.


Agency traffic chief James Harkness said his department would look at five years of crash data to determine what, if any, changes to make to the intersection.

"Typically, we'll look at the reports the police officers write up, try to determine patterns that are occurring, and then what we can do to engineer solutions to help fix the traffic crash patterns," he said.

The Memorial residents arranged the meeting after Lionel Cooke was hit June 24 while crossing on his mobility scooter. He is recovering after being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The residents say the problem is that some motorists are confused by the wide boulevard of Eutaw Place, with its grassy median separating northbound and southbound lanes. Drivers sometimes don't know where to turn — a challenge critics say is compounded by poorly placed traffic signals.

The residents want the city to consider traffic calming options, such as speed bumps and a yellow flashing caution light. They also want a new turn lane and turning arrow, and they say the crosswalk signs should be replaced and the crosswalk resurfaced.

Baltimore police said their officers have responded to eight crashes there in the past three months, including three in a single week in June, none of them fatal. Police officials said they could not immediately provide longer-term data.

Barbara Sessions, 67, who lives across the street from the senior apartments, said she's watched for years as cars slammed into poles near the intersection — and drivers traveled the wrong way down Eutaw Place.

Leo Burroughs, president of the Memorial Apartments Residents Association, said he wants immediate action.


"For more than five years we have attempted to get your department to take all necessary corrective action to improve signaling and signage at the intersection," Burroughs said in a letter to the city's director of transportation. "The slow pace of your department's response seems to suggest that you care very little about the safety of our senior citizens in Bolton Hill."

In 2010, in response to residents' complaints, the agency sent out an inspector who confirmed the intersection has a stoplight in place. "A visual check of this location revealed McMechen Street and Eutaw Place is a signalized intersection," wrote Randall Scott, the former chief of the city's traffic division.

Upset over what they regarded as a cursory investigation, the residents continued to send letters and complain. Burroughs said that after Cooke was injured, residents decided they couldn't wait passively for the wheels of government to turn.

"They hit the scooter, and he flew up in the air and they knocked the sign down," Burroughs said. "He's lucky to be alive."

Cooke referred questions to his attorney, who declined to comment.

An inactive speed camera sits near the corner of McMechen and Eutaw. Baltimore officials announced in April that they have suspended the city's troubled speed camera program amid fresh reports of erroneous tickets.


While speeding inevitably contributes to the collisions, Burroughs said he's not sure having an operable speed camera would make a difference.

"The speeding is not the major problem here, necessarily," Burroughs says. "It's the way it's engineered. The engineering is terribly flawed."

City Councilman William H. Cole IV, who represents Bolton Hill, said he is confident city government will do a "thorough traffic study" before making any decisions about how to improve the intersection.

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"They simply don't throw [in] a stop sign or put in a crosswalk," he said. "It's a very fair process."

Cole said the agency will also look at a second intersection along Eutaw Place, after receiving a similar complaint from the Mount Royal Improvement Association.

"It's definitely confusing all up and down that corridor," Cole said.


Some residents say they're worried that the city will come back and recommend no changes at all.

"Living here, we don't think it's safe," said Memorial Apartments resident Robert Tucker, 69. "We're seeing accidents all the time. We know it's not safe."