Out and About (Sort of): The Third Bay Bridge—No More Waiting by Howard Freedlander

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After years and years of studies and discussion, the 2017 General Assembly finally said: enough’s enough.

Working mainly out of sight—meaning away from the sneaky, ever-watchful media—a joint legislative committee, meeting for months in a back room at Harry Browne’s on State Circle, decided that the third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span will be an underwater rapid transit system. It will go from near the eastbound span to Claiborne in Talbot County.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Talbot County will no longer evade the masses of people traveling from the Western to the Eastern Shore. And, to add insult to injury, Talbot County taxpayers will be on the hook for accommodating the beach-anxious visitors. In other words, the county will provide rapid transit to Dorchester County, also under the Choptank River.

But that system is covered in another Spy article.

Staging the final, momentous summit at Harry Browne’s, a convenient venue for hungry and thirsty power-brokers, was a shrewdly counter-intuitive choice. As the select group of senators and delegates performed their legislative magic on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, their peers, lobbyists, media representatives and assorted political junkies were reveling during the festive day of the Green. No frivolity for these clever transit-masters.

So, you may ask, what will this underwater transit system cost? A conservative estimate is $2-3 billion. And, to top it all, this figure will be in a supplementary budget proposed in the waning days of the 2017 legislature by Gov. Larry Hogan. There will be little or no time for public input. The normal give-an-take of the democratic process will be short-circuited.

Just the way it is sometimes.

The die is cast. Endless talk about a third span will cease. Kent Islanders are saved; these hearty folks will simply have to tolerate existing motorists furiously eager to Reach the Beach (as former Governor William Donald Schaefer termed his ambitious effort to expand the lanes to Kent Island).

You might wonder how this Spy columnist learned about this impressively massive transportation project. How did he insert himself among unnamed state legislators as they spelled out an incredibly bold public works project? I can’t disclose why I received this unusual invitation to enter a secretive and powerful sanctum.

Suffice it to say that I know people in high places. They trust me for reasons completely unclear to me. They knew I would appreciate a preposterous scheme such as this one. They knew only I could communicate clearly and credibly to my many friends in Talbot County.

How does this innovative project benefit Talbot County? Now that’s a very good question. Simply, it enables the county to be part of a grand solution to deal with the increasing traffic over the existing Bay Bridge, the prestige factor is undeniable. No longer aloof and seemingly uncaring about the problems plaguing our state, including significant transportation logjams, Talbot County is becoming a major player in the resolution of a long-simmering dilemma.

It feels so satisfying to be part of the state team.

I learned something else in the inner sanctum, dominated by good cheer and a distinct sense of destiny: the underwater transit system may have a rest stop for visitors, a place for dining as the Bay’s bounteous creatures circle about. Approximate cost of this radical creation: probably another $100 million.

If readers can discern my excitement about this incredibly innovative (and, yes, expensive) solution to increasingly overwhelming traffic congestion, it’s because I can see an exciting future for fast transit across the Chesapeake Bay.

And, of course, I could take pride that Talbot County would be an integral part of this cutting-edge transportation technology.

I know my fellow county residents would feel equally joyful.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Editor’s Note: For our less observant readers, it is important to note that this is an example of what fake news looks like. Happy April Fools Day.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Jan Eliassen says:

    A third bay crossing has nothing to do with traffic and everything to do with development. In less than four years, the sprawl development created by the new crossing will create enough traffic to bring us back to square one on the traffic issue. In the meantime a few developers will have gotten fabulously wealthy. The big looser in all this will be agriculture. A Wye Institute study from a few years ago found that sprawl development, not environmental regulations, was the greatest threat to agriculture on the Eastern Shore. If too much farmland is taken out of farming, the critical mass necessary to maintain the ag infrastructure will be gone.
    Jan Eliassen

    • Ann Miller says:

      Perhaps reading “Editor’s Notes” would be advantageous here.

      • joe diamond says:

        It was a good shot though. There was a ferry from Sandy Point to Claiborne back in the day. Pretty sure the depth of the Bay would eliminate a tunnel at that point. Then there would be the grand thruway thru St Michaels.

        Funny!

        joe

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