Letter to Editor: A “No Build” Option on New Bridge the Answer

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We attended the recent meeting on the latest iteration of the Bay Bridge crossing study and are very grateful to the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance for bringing this important issue to Kent County residents’ attention. On the Alliance’s advice, we reviewed the Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study Task Force Report commissioned by the Maryland Department of Transportation on proposed options for solving the traffic congestion problems on the existing Bay bridges. We were left with several concerns about the report itself and the conclusions that were reached.

First, I’m surprised that a plan for the 21st century—focused on the year 2025–is based only on 20th century traffic congestion solutions and not looking to future technology. The report focuses on studies which led to the building of the 1952 and 1972 bridges as the solution to current traffic congestion. It also uses quite old data to support conclusions for solving the current problems – e.g., costs per mile data from 12 years ago!

Second, since a primary goal of the Task Force is to expedite travel from the Western Shore to Atlantic Ocean beaches, then, given the acknowledged fragile nature of the Chesapeake and its environs (and the vast resources that have been spent to protect and preserve the Bay), we do not understand why any proposal would focus on damaging so much of these fragile areas that are not primary destination points. Shouldn’t the focus be on the gentlest way to move people from point A to point B using new technologies, not old?

Third, reading the Task Force Report, none of the proposed options significantly reduces the existing and projected traffic overload on the existing bridges; it seems as though the Task Force should look for solutions that would actually solve the problem it has described.

We are deeply dismayed at this faulty decision-making which uses old data, no future thinking and offers no good options. This strikes me as an embarrassing methodology to evaluate such an important and obviously expensive issue – both in terms of dollars and potential negative impact on the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore.

The answer here is not simply “Kent County says no.” Relocating this project as currently imagined—a bridge for motor vehicles–elsewhere on the Shore does not address its fundamental flaws or limit its adverse effects on the Chesapeake Bay.

We urgently need the “no build” option, while we think more deeply about 21st century transportation possibilities and the Eastern Shore we want to leave to our grandchildren.

Ellyn and John Vail
Worton

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Letters to Editor

  1. Terrific points John and Ellyn Vail!

    Eastern Shore Land Conservancy shares your concerns and calls for a short term exploration of options to get more out of the existing bridges, and a longer term exploration of forward looking systems which will move beach traffic efficiently while also building a mass transit backbone to serve Eastern Shore needs over the very long term.

    Rob Etgen,
    Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

  2. Beryl Smith says:

    One thing that perhaps could assist the congestion on the bridges at peak (read summer) times–add one more lane to the 2-lane bridge and let each bridge be one way. The supporting infrastructure could handle the traffic as it hits the highway on the eastern side better than implementing a new bridge elsewhere with all the disruptions to the neighborhoods it would invade. I am not an engineer–just thinking.

  3. ….Why don’t we just build a new beach along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and let the people of the western shore stay closer to home! It will save them gas money, save the the State the money needed to build a new bridge and supporting infrastructure, and keep the suburban sprawl from coming to our side of the Pond. Everybody wins!

    Keep smiling!

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful comments on another bridge to span the Chesapeake. I, along with many other people are very concerned of the impact it would have on Kent County, but that is not the crux of the real issue. The language that MdTA uses on their website (baycrossingstudy.com) to describe purpose of the study-“will result in the identification of a preferred corridor alternative to address congestion at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge”- leaves little doubt that they are looking to build a bridge, and are not looking at alternatives.

    They must, under NEPA consider a no bridge alternative, that will be a cursory and discarded proposal. Clearly MdTA’s mission is to deliver, by the end of 2019 with a written record of decision (ROD) to follow, a 1 mile wide corridor crossing the Chesapeake somewhere. Once the corridor is selected, the next task for MdTA in a Tier 2 study ( at a cost of $30 million) is to thread the needle through the corridor avoiding if possible, minimizing where feasible, and mitigating to what extent they can the impacts on environment , natural, historic and cultural resources,. No build is the only option that eliminates entirely these threats and must be a priority.

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