Volume 13, Issue 7 ~ February 17 - February 23, 2005
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Big Backup at Bay Country Bridges

Ever decide that a trip to the ocean wasn't worth traffic headaches and Bay Bridge backup?

Then you better get yourself a jellyfish net for the Bay because the combination of shoddy Bay Bridge construction and the shortage of thinking about the future means longer and longer backups coming our way.

Wherever Maryland's transportation officials are looking, it's sure not down the road.

Constructing bridges is a process that consumes years, if not decades, from plan to reality. Yet our transportation planners seem to still be pretending we can manage just fine - how long? forever? - without new lanes or spans linking Western and Eastern Shores.

Fast ferries - which could relieve the gridlock by riding us over - get no more serious consideration than if proponents were talking blimps. Yet ferries do the job in other states where water is a reality of geography: North Carolina, Washington state and Alaska.

In the short term, we're doing no better in finding solutions for getting today's commuters back and forth from the slightly more-affordable Eastern Shore to the job-rich Western Shore.

Anne Arundel County Del. David Boschert had a fine idea for establishing convenient runs of now-scarce commuter buses. Too expensive, state transportation managers countered.

We'd laughed over that reply until we started crying. Wiping away the tears, we decided that you've got to be penny-wise when you've just been pound-foolish enough to waste millions of dollars (and millions of hours of travelers' time) on so bad a job of resurfacing the Bay Bridge that it will have to be done all over again. Of course, doing it right will cost more and take longer.

Meanwhile, Sen. Roy Dyson tells us that economic growth in Calvert and St. Mary's counties is clogging up the soaring Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge at Solomons. That's the bridge that had to close down a few years back for similarly shoddy construction. Impromptu ferries carried people to the other side.

Now it looks like new spans or lanes also will be needed over that mile-wide crossing of the Patuxent River.

The region's brightest planners convening in Washington this month predicted that the metropolitan area would grow by a startling two million people over the next quarter century.

Without doubt, many of those newcomers will be heading to Chesapeake Country for the same reasons all of us live here.

We wonder what's going to happen when you tell them they can come, but they have to make reservations six months ahead to visit the Eastern Shore and three months ahead to see St. Mary's.

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