The problem: A street sign was misspelled in Druid Heights.
The back story: Watchdog takes Sun staff to and through many different neighborhoods in and around Baltimore.
During that quest to find the quickest path from a report of a street light out in one community to a leaking water meter in another, Watchdog sometimes stumbles on an issue before a reader has a chance to point it out.
In this case, "Druid" on the sign for Druid Hill Avenue at Bloom Street included an extra "L" in it. No other sign on the street was incorrectly spelled. And no, no one in the city Department of Transportation's sign shop intentionally planned to translate the sign into "Baltimorese," confirmed spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes.
Signs go through three sets of hands before they end up on your street corner: the sign fabricator, who makes the sign; the fabricator, who puts it together; and the crew that installs it, said Charlie Baker, superintendent of DOT's sign shop.
"Usually within them three, they will catch any mistakes," Baker said.
But the crew that installed this sign was new and doesn't usually work in that area, he said.
The shop usually proofreads signs against an ADC map, Baker said. If the two don't match, the workers bring it to Baker's attention.
He wasn't sure how long the Druid Hill Avenue sign was up, but guessed it could have been there for about a year, because of its condition.
Signs are usually installed on two of four corners of an intersection, although at larger intersections, traffic engineers can call for four. "Sometimes it's just not necessary," he said.
Street signs cost an average of $38 to make and install, though it costs more for signs with longer street names. Auchentoroly Terrace is the city's longest, and such signs cost $45 to $48 to make, Baker said.
The sign shop makes and maintains the city's signs — 250,000 of them, according to the last estimate, conducted about five years ago, according to Baker. A new count is in the works as part of an upgrade to larger, 9-inch tall signs, mandated by the federal government, he said.
The letters on those signs, in the "Clearview" font that features a capitalized initial letter, with the rest lowercase, are bigger and easier for seniors and others to read, Baker said. Signs now also feature a reflective coating to make them easier to see at night.
The sign shop pulls service requests from 311 daily and receives as many as 40 to 50 a day, Baker said. No one had called about the erroneous Druid Hill Avenue sign until Watchdog reported it Tuesday. Someone from the sign shop inspected it and made the repair on Wednesday, Barnes said.
Who can fix this: Richard Hooper, chief of Baltimore Department of Transportation's maintenance division. City residents should call 311 to report problems.
Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 410-332-6735.