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'Baltimore' road names pave way for confusion


It's a case of mistaken identity.

Baltimore Avenue residents in North Laurel know where they live. But others have a hard time finding them. It's not that they aren't looking. It's just seems that there are too many "Baltimore" names on area roads.

There's the aforementioned Baltimore Avenue, a mostly residential, tree-lined, half-mile-long street with speed humps, north of Laurel's historic district and connecting U.S. 1 with Route 216.

There's one segment of U.S. 1 formally named Baltimore Avenue and another that's widely known as Baltimore Boulevard.

And then there's Baltimore Street, another residential road not far away in Savage.

The situation's such that even longtime delivery people along Route 1 in Laurel and Savage fumble with their well-worn maps.

And it's gotten so bad that residents of Baltimore Avenue will decide at a meeting tonight whether to ask Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning to change the name of their decades-old street.

When Baltimore Avenue residents want something repaired or delivered, they say, they have to allow time for an additional phone call -- from an invariably lost service technician or fast-food employee complaining of being on Baltimore Avenue, but not finding the house.

"Nine out of 10 times, when you tell people you live on Baltimore Avenue, they think it's Baltimore Boulevard," explains North Laurel Civic Association President Patsy Yingling.

4 The confusion is thoroughly grounded in reality.

U.S. 1 -- also labeled Washington-Baltimore Boulevard -- splits in historic Laurel to become two roads.

One branch, heading south, is Washington Boulevard.

The other, heading north, is Second Street -- sometimes called Baltimore Boulevard.

ZTC Then, south of the Laurel historic district, the two branches of U.S. 1 rejoin and become Baltimore Avenue for a stretch.

But north of the historic district is the mostly residential Baltimore Avenue.

"We're the famous Baltimore Avenue," says Pat Flynn, a 12-year resident. "We're the one with the speed humps."

Benjamin Geare, a land acquisition agent for Howard County's Department of Public Works, says the proximity of many Baltimore road names isn't the result of a mistake.

Road names usually are chosen for a reason, and Baltimore naturally has been a popular name in the area. "Why does every little town have a Main Street?" he asks. "Howard County has several."

Although some residents of Baltimore Avenue worry that firefighters might confuse an address in an emergency, Anne Arundel and Howard county fire departments covering North Laurel say they haven't had problems distinguishing between the two.

But it seems every resident has a tale about deliveries gone awry.

Mack Statham, who's lived on Baltimore Avenue for 10 years, says everyone -- repair technicians, carpet cleaners, package-delivery services -- thinks Baltimore Avenue means U.S. 1.

He has to guide misinformed deliverers to his home. "I've gotten used to it," he says. "It's happened too frequently over the years. . . . It's almost like it's commonplace."

Another Baltimore Avenue resident, Mrs. Flynn, was waiting for a clothes dryer to be delivered a few months ago.

True to form, the store's truck ended up on U.S. 1's Baltimore Avenue, and she had to direct him to her Baltimore Avenue.

Residents say that if the delivery trucks don't call from somewhere on U.S. 1, they call from Baltimore Street in Savage.

"When we used to order a pizza, we'd get a call from them in Savage," says 30-year Baltimore Avenue resident Jean Lang.

Civic association members may decide to seek a change in Baltimore Avenue's name. But they say they're not quite ready to abandon the name Baltimore Avenue entirely.

Their suggested new names are Lady or Lord Baltimore Avenue. (Not to be confused with Lord Baltimore Place in central Prince George's County -- which residents hope is far enough away not to cause the same old problem.)

"It's already Baltimore, it would be simple to just add one more word," says Richard Compton, a member of the civic association.

But some residents worry that a name change would prove more of a hassle than the current situation. If the name change goes through, residents will have to notify friends and businesses of their new address.

Says Mrs. Flynn: "It'll probably be a real pain in the neck."

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