Nowhere to a Bridge
Returning after dark from a beach foray two Sundays ago, we ran into traffic so brutal we wondered if we would make it back to work on Monday. Thank heavens for oyster poor boys and Sunday night radio dramas.
It was the same story for travelers this past Sunday night, we heard reliably, with a four-mile backup before the west-bound Bay Bridge.
Even before last week’s Minnesota bridge collapse, we were feeling our bridge deficiencies here in Maryland. The Bay Bridge is inadequate for our needs, and we’re not just talking about the convenience of beach-goers.
State planners have predicted that the population of the Eastern Shore will swell by 160,000 people in the next two decades. Many of those folks will be commuting back and forth to Annapolis or Washington.
Nor are we getting any fewer on this shore, where, for example, 45,000 new military-related jobs around Ft. Meade will bring us two or three times that many people.
None of them, of course, will want to visit the Eastern Shore.
Yet as far as we can tell, there has been no progress toward new Bay crossings. Alaska has its infamous bridge (or two) to nowhere, while Maryland is nowhere to a bridge across Chesapeake Bay and no closer to a system of fast ferries, an idea candidate Martin O’Malley endorsed before he became governor.
Now is the time to open these transportation debates. Taxpayers hear the ominous sounds of politicians talking about every kind of tax increase from a penny increase in our five-cent sales tax to higher gas taxes. We hear once more the cloying refrain of how legalized gambling can rescue Maryland from financial woe.
But we hear very little about what we’ll be getting for our money, be it taxed or squeezed out of willing bettors.
Maryland has 10 of the steel deck-truss bridges including segments of the Bay Bridge of the same design as Minnesota’s fallen bridge. We have our share of crumbing concrete bridges, too.
If O’Malley and the General Assembly intend to bleed us with new taxes or force Maryland to accept gambling, at least give us a crossing plan that includes the seed money for a new way across the Bay.
Our suggestion would be to get to work on such a proposal right away and publish it.
Then we’ll have something to read when we’re going nowhere during our next beach adventure.