Originally published in the Severna Park Voice August 9, 2016.
There is a meeting in our community this month, August 10th, sponsored by the Broadneck Council to discuss once again the extreme impact of Bay Bridge traffic. While the issue has a great impact locally, state government has yet to make it a priority.
First opened in 1952 the Bay Bridge was so successful that the state quickly added a second, adjacent bridge in 1973 with plans for a future third bridge; however while we suffer the frustrations of bridge traffic, it is only an occasional nuisance to the rest of the state. Moreover because of the our traffic problems, representatives of the Eastern Shore added a provision to the law prohibiting another bridge from being built without the unanimous approval of ALL nine Eastern Shore Counties; a very tall hurdle, a poison pill meant to kill any future plans for construction.
In addition, there is the political problem of the long lead time required to build the bridge, twelve years or more, which would require the financial commitment of successive governors and legislatures. Generally there is little political incentive for politicians committing scarce resources and political capital for a project that won’t be completed until they are out of office.
So it is likely that if we don’t get organized nothing will be done until our quality of life gets so bad that the state is forced to act, but with the long lead time to build the bridge we will have to suffer those conditions for twelve years. It is therefore urgent that we as a community, that Anne Arundel County as a whole, fight for the state to get started immediately before traffic gets worse. The state needs to be pushed.
A 2015 study estimates that in 25 years traffic will increase by 31%, increasing on average from 70,700 vehicles per day to an average of 92,800 per day with Summer peaks of 128,800. With Summer peaks now causing backups sometimes across the whole of the county from the bridge to Crofton, imagine how much worse it could be, total gridlock in and around Annapolis with the county cut in two.
Pressures on the state budget are great. There is a lot of deferred maintenance after the last administration took $1 billion out of the transportation fund to balance the budget and there are many needs, still the Bay Bridge has to be made a state priority. It is hard to imagine many projects having a greater impact on the well being and economic success of the State of Maryland.
Legislation to speed the construction of the bridge has been introduced many times in the last decade. This year the effort got the farthest.
A law was introduced to require the state to start saving for the first step in the process. Senate Bill 56 would have required the state to set aside $1,750,000 per year towards the cost of an environmental impact study (EIS) for the new bridge. The EIS is the first step in making a plan and seeking federal funds. SB56 passed the Senate but was not voted on in the House of Delegates. In addition to mandating funding SB56 would have removed the Eastern Shore veto over the project.
I intend to fight again next session for a way forward. There are few issues that will impact us more over the next 25 years. Please start lobbying now for the next legislative session which begins in January.
Please visit my website at www.Leg33.com, or call me at 410-841-3406, for more information on this or any other topic.