Vegetation vies with visibility on exit ramps Pruning, mowing done less often


Don't talk to Rita Chmielewski about trees.

Under most circumstances she loves them, but not when they interfere with her view of high-speed traffic. That's when she entertains thoughts of chain saws, stacks of firewood and big piles of sawdust.

The Carney resident confronts her least favorite stand of trees when entering the Inner Loop of the Beltway from southbound DTC Harford Road. As she pulls up the hill, she can't see what's happening on the highway.

"You must get out on the road before you have a good view," Ms. Chmielewski writes. "This is a very bad situation, especially when exiting vehicles fail to signal their intent.

"I fail to see the necessity for all the trees and high vegetation. I'm sure the problem is not unique to this location."

Ms. Chmielewski is right about that. Despite its environmental benefits, the green stuff can be a safety problem on the highway.

Sometimes branches obscure signs. On secondary roads, trees can limit the sightlines for motorists at intersections or driveways.

Overgrown branches can take swipes at passing trucks and buses. Fallen trees can suddenly make a road impassable.

Hey, it's a jungle out there.

State Highway Administration officials have promised to look into the Harford Road situation but are not surprised the growth may have been overlooked.

In recent years, the SHA has cut back on maintenance. Workers mow less often. Native flora is allowed to grow wild.

But on Beltway ramps, "we like to keep clear zones," says Allen E. Ault, an SHA assistant district engineer for maintenance, "where we don't plant trees or if a tree grows there, we would probably cut it down."

The agency encourages the public to call to report overgrown vegetation. Its workers can't spot everything. If you see a problem around the Beltway, Mr. Ault asks that you report it. In northern Baltimore County, call 329-6752, in the south, 766-3770, west, 363-1315 and east, 574-4511.

Fun for all ages on bumpy Russell

While most amusement parks are closing for the season, one of Baltimore's best-known thrill rides carries on.

Russell Street's "speed bumps," potholes, and dips in the road have enlivened the trip between downtown and Baltimore-Washington Parkway for years. Admission is free, but the cost in automobile alignments is high.

"The speed bumps appear to be joints in the asphalt that have continued to buckle until they have become road hazards," writes Gayle Curry of Glen Burnie. "There are at least 10 of these areas . . . and no way to avoid them."

Intrepid Commuter is particularly fond of the dip in the road on northbound Russell Street near the I-95 exit that literally propels cars into the air. It reminds us of the chase scene from the movie "Bullitt."

Unfortunately, the news from the city public works department regarding Russell Street is not good. Officials admit the road's in pretty bad shape but don't have the money to make it right.

Instead, they have promised to patch where they can this week. A major resurfacing, a project that could cost $1 million or more, ++ will have to wait until the federal government forks over some dough.

"It's been close to 20 years since major work was done and the condition of the roadway is just a direct result of wear," says Vanessa Pyatt, the department's spokeswoman. "We'd like to do something about it [but] it's a matter of money."

In the meantime, if you find yourself driving on Russell, just raise your hands over your head and scream, "Wheeeeeeee."

Gas pump leaves commuter wet

Sometimes it's depressing to see the huge pile of mail that has accumulated on the Intrepid desk and the equally awesome number of messages left on our voice mail.

We are saddened not by the volume -- all your inquiries are cherished -- but because so many commuter complaints could be solved if people demonstrated greater fidelity to the Golden Rule.

Take for instance the recent experience of Michael J. Lynch of Carney. Thanks to the thoughtlessness of someone else, he ended up with a gallon or two of unleaded gasoline down his pants leg.

Perhaps this has happened to you. He drove up to a service station, paid an attendant $10, removed the gas cap on his truck, lifted the nozzle, flipped up the handle and a gusher was released.

Someone had locked the grip on the nozzle so that it spewed gasoline the moment the pump was turned on. Maybe that was deliberate. Maybe it wasn't.

But that was the second time in four months Mr. Lynch has been drenched with a high octane mix. He wishes gas stations would stop using nozzles that lock.

Of course, the real answer is for people to be a little more concerned about the safety and convenience of others.

But if people won't follow the rule, "Do unto others," here's another one: Stay away from lighted matches.

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