Letter to the Editor: Bay Crossing Study and Being Too Little & Too Late

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On January 25th, along with many others, I attended the meeting of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance to listen to a cogent presentation by Janet Christensen-Lewis and Elizabeth Watson on the current status of the Bay Crossing Study now in progress.

The Task Force for this Study was commissioned to analyze traffic data from the western to eastern shore and propose solutions to current and future Bay Bridge congestion and suggest alternative routes from a possible 3rd bridge across the bay to the Atlantic shore beach communities. If you have the time, I would encourage everyone to read it. You can find it on the MDTA website and also at the KCPA website. It will give you a clear picture of the methodology devised for data collection and review, while raising quite a few questions, as well as introduce you to many acronyms which lend the report a seemingly comforting professional sheen.

But the content of the Task Force’s Report left me wondering if there are any scenario planners participating in this Study.

Clearly there are traffic engineers, civil engineers, environmental scientists, and other agency heads, etcetera, but is there also someone from the Department of Unintended Consequences? (representation of which would be well advised).

For those of you who missed this presentation last week I was hoping I could entice some of you to perform a thought experiment. I’m sure you have seen the map the KCPA has produced showing one possible Bridge location in Kent County, but if you haven’t, find a map of Kent County or the Delmarva Peninsula which includes the bay and part of the western shore. Now draw a straight line from route 702 on the Baltimore side (just north of Baltimore) to Tolchester. This is one of a few contemplated routes for the proposed 3rd bridge (although I’d argue the Report implies this might be a preferred route). From the Tolchester landing point, draw 2 more lines, each about 15 miles long, one slightly south from route 21 down to 213 at Centreville and one slightly north of Chestertown hooking up to route 291 (it seems logical the state would consider two routes in lieu of one across the peninsula).

Now, if you can, mentally lift the commercial corridor straddling route 50 from the existing bridge to Queenstown (all the businesses, malls, restaurants and bars, motels, tattoo parlors, etc) and plunk that down along these 2 new routes through Kent County. Then retrieve the secondary developments which stretch to either side of the route 50 commercial corridor (all the condos, hotels, side roads, mini-malls, and adjacent sprawl) and add that to your mental map. Make sure there are lots of condos along the bay shore from Swan Point Farm in Rock Hall to Worton and into Swan, Fairlee, and Worton creeks, as well as the Chester River. I’m not even sure Churn Creek and Still Pond Creek would be immune to the development pressure. This is nothing less than supplanting one ‘culture’ with another (merely to relieve traffic densities, and provide more affordable housing to employees in Baltimore), and anyone claiming they can mitigate or minimize the development pressures that would occur along these improved routes is suffering from TLS (Temporary Loss of Sanity). That is not how growth patterns should occur, if at all, particularly here in Kent County.

What might be the ultimate cost of this proposal for Kent County? Think of the resultant air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, water pollution, and human pollution that will be created as a by-product of a solution to primarily move goods and people from the western shore of the bay to the Atlantic in as expedient a manner as possible. Then too, we will be beset with loss of wildlife habitats, loss of fertile farmland, disruption of wildlife corridors, complex (and poorly understood) changes to existing commercial and recreational fishing sites, loss of viable hunting sites, more planned unit developments and commercial enterprises feeding this traffic, causing drastic impacts on existing infrastructure and straining municipal budgets.

It may be too soon to predict how this study will conclude and with what proposed, but considering the speed with which it is proceeding, everyone’s opinion must be accounted for, otherwise it may be TLTL (too little too late). All bad ideas begin as good ones. A third span into Kent County may be one of those.

Ken Schiano

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