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Volume 15, Issue 39 ~ September 27 - October 3, 2007


For Our Transportation Future,
Take a Clue from the Past

The Oxford-Bellvue Ferry lost the big race across the Tred Avon River Sept. 22.

First place went to the paddlewheeler Choptank River Queen; second to sister paddlewheeler Dorothy Megan. Both front-runners cruise from the Suicide Bridge Restaurant, on the Choptank River near the village of Secretary in Dorchester County.

But really, nobody lost.

“We did far better than our wildest expectations,” said John Pepe, an organizer for the sponsoring Oysterville Yacht Club.

More than 325 people paid $100 each for a place on a vessel or on a host committee to benefit several worthy causes. In the water and on shore, fans watched and cheered, enjoying the day and the spectacle. Still, the race was more than an Eastern Shore charity bonanza.

Race-goers and armchair readers got a lively lesson in Maryland history and a timely reminder that boats can ply Maryland’s waters both for pleasure and for purpose.

As the big, slow boats raced, our political leaders are plotting our 21st century transportation policy. Higher gas taxes — a blow to commuters in Chesapeake Country — are on the table. We’re hearing competing demands on how to spend transportation monies. Suburban D.C. wants more roads. With more roads come more cars.

Our recommendation is that to meet the needs of our future, we should cast a glance toward the past.

Last week, advocates for a network of Chesapeake Bay ferries submitted a report to Gov. O’Malley concluding that a network of ferries would be of great value in reducing traffic around Annapolis.

That’s encouraging. O’Malley, who opposes another Bay Bridge span, has directed transportation officials in his administration to come up with a ferry report in the coming weeks.

There’s little doubt that we’re headed toward more frequent gridlock on Rt. 50 with projections of huge growth on the Eastern Shore and double the amount of daily traffic passing by Annapolis by 2025.

Sure, there are questions about environmental impacts of ferry docks and disruption of neighborhoods. But there are potential benefits, too, beyond relieving congestion. Tailpipe emissions are one of the biggest sources of pollution in the Bay, and finding ways to reduce emissions is more than appealing; it’s urgent.

According to reports, ferry proponents traveled from Annapolis to Kent Island, a distance of seven miles, in 22 minutes. We’ve wasted a lot more time than that coming home from the beach.

There’s much to talk about, including partnerships with Virginia. Thus far, a lot of the chatter about ferries has come from people and companies who hope to make a buck off them. It’s time, now that we’re looking at the transportation future, for our political leaders to take clues from our successful marine past and not get bogged down in regional warfare.

With so many conservation and energy challenges ahead, we’re all in the same boat. Here’s hoping it will be a ferry boat.

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