Washington College Highly Critical of Planned Bridge Closings

Share

In a strongly worded public statement, Washington College’s President, Sheila Bair, made it clear that the proposed Chester River Bridge closing would highly disruptive for her institituion and its students. Citing the potential for gridlock, longer drives to local regional hospitals, as well as the impact on the College’s Washington Avenue campus, Bair suggests that “chaos” will result.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 9.58.30 AM

Letters to Editor

  1. Joe Diamond says:

    What an excellent summary of the bridge situation!

    The question president Blair asks is really fundamental to the problem; should the Chester River bridge at Chestertown be maintained as a draw span?
    If you search to discover who needs a draw span on the bridge you discover that most boats now on the river do not need to raise the span. The few sail boats that do attempt to go up river cannot sail in the narrow channel or easily anchor. All residences above the bridge have access from public roads. Who needs a draw bridge here anyway?

    Unfortunately no amount of state political horsepower can fix things. The Maryland State Highway Administration is just the messenger in this one. Getting the head state bean counter to use his influence can only go so far. It is a federal issue and we are therefore screwed.

    Since the Chester River is a navigable body of water with tide and a current it is controlled by the US Coast Guard, The Army Corp of Engineers and an array of other federal agencies. The US Supreme Court has ruled on all this and there are major federal laws about freedom to navigate. and conduct commerce. So even though nobody needs a draw span the long term answer cannot be to weld the thing in the down position.

    Some day there must be a replacement bridge…..or a tunnel. We need a super federal hero to go to Washington and bring back bridge building loot.

    Joe

    • william short says:

      Joe,
      Since the Chester River is a navigable body of water with tide and a current it is controlled by the US Coast Guard, The Army Corp of Engineers and an array of other federal agencies. The US Supreme Court has ruled on all this and there are major federal laws about freedom to navigate. and conduct commerce. So even though nobody needs a draw span the long term answer cannot be to weld the thing in the down position.

      Let me start by saying I made this recommendation at the first Task Force meeting and it was well received by most including the SHA and the process had started. Then a few folks up stream said future development would be impacted ( I don’t think so due to the depth of the water ) I have already suggested to put a fixed span in during the winter months. Hopefully after this fiasco it will grab hold with the community .We can accomplish this I feel confident in saying that but only if citizens get behind it.

      Regards,
      CC Bill Short

      • Joe Diamond says:

        Hello Bill,
        Good luck with applying common sense to this. Clearly that draw span helps nobody and another type of bridge…maybe in another location would benefit the community. Here is what I found while looking at the bridge issue.

        The Commerce Clause in the Constitution (Article 1, section 8, part 3)…….give the federal government power to control and legislate navigable waters. So a developer or private individual would get a federal permit to dredge the upriver channel…in theory. They would mention the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1889 that forbids building any obstruction over navigable waters.

        The opposition…..us, the town…the local community would counter the permit application with among other things :

        U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 created four tests for determining what constitutes navigable waters. Established in Kaiser Aetna v. United States, 444 U.S. 164, 100 S. Ct. 383, 62 L. Ed. 2d 332,
        The tests ask whether the body of water:
        (1) is subject to the ebb and flow of the tide,
        (2) connects with a continuous interstate waterway,
        (3) has navigable capacity,
        (4) is actually navigable.

        Using these tests, courts have held that bodies of water much smaller than lakes and rivers also constitute navigable waters. Even shallow streams that are traversable only by canoe have met the test.

        I think there is a chance. Sail boaters will not often motor up the river now. Dredging a deep water marina up stream just will not happen. But this is Maryland so ya never know. We can only hope that the same god who built not one but two Chesapeake Bay spans to Kent Island and a bridge tunnel to Norfolk will cut us some federal slack.

        Good luck with this,

        Joe

  2. Gren Whitman says:

    All these high-powered complaints about the bridge closing!
    If only they could be re-directed to focus on the pressing need for a brand-new Chester River bridge and by-pass!
    That’s what’s really needed by Chestertown and the entire Kent County community, as well as Queen Anne’s and everyone who drives on 213.

    • Joe Diamond says:

      Hey Gren,
      If it was easy it would be done by now……..you know the Ctown bridge thing. Consider:
      In the 1970s many local, state and federal agencies agreed that the 213 bridge at Chestertown was past it’s service life and a replacement was now due. By the mid 1980s several bridge designs and locations had been approved…shovel ready deals! There were also several plans for a bypass to route traffic beyond rather than through Chestertown.

      The state of Maryland now owns tracts of land it bought to that end………recently, in the last few years, political wonks have proposed selling that land because the project ain’t happenin’ .

      Finally, there are now more federal agencies to screw around with the project. Homeland Security did not exist when the bridge replacement plans were first drawn………..all the Maryland agencies involved in protecting the Bay were not on the horizon. There was no Clean Water Act and the EPA didn’t exist. Recently a federal appeals court rejected an EPA proposal to control any water within 4000 feet of a navigable waterway……This gridlock of agencies will continue until that bridge sinks on it’s own defective foundations. Each of the several..not-in-my back-yard groups will wonder where the bridge went any why someone did not fix it.

      In my opinion,

      Joe

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.