In Support of a Third Bay Bridge Span by Samuel Shoge

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Talk of a third span crossing the Chesapeake Bay into Kent County has rightfully stoked concern among local residents. The surrounding landscape could change in significant ways if a span makes its way to the county, requiring massive upgrades to the surrounding infrastructure and exponentially increasing the number of cars and trucks on local roads.

Most see this change as detrimental and a threat to Kent County’s way of life.

Would a third span really be such a bad thing, however?

This letter to the editor attempts to provide additional perspective to the current dialogue regarding a third span by briefly outlining local and macro-economic trends that are affecting Kent County’s economy and, in turn, its future.

Local Trends

Prior to discussing the merits of a third span coming through Kent County, it is important to understand the county’s current demographic trends.

  • Least populated county in Maryland with 19,730 residents
  • Population has shrunk -2.3% from the 2010 Census
  • Lowest K-12 public school enrollment in Maryland at 1,891 (projected to decrease through 2026)
  • Third oldest county in Maryland by median age: 45.6 (preceded by Talbot and Worcester)

Macro-Economic Trends

Demographic trends point to continued decline in Kent County. What is currently happening in Kent County is affecting most small, rural counties across the United States. U.S. Census data shows that from 2010 through 2014, U.S. counties with less than 100,000 residents combined to lose more businesses than they created. Kent County is no exception.

In 2015, Kent County had 619 business establishments, down from 728 in 2005

Rural counties have seen their portion of economic recovery steadily decrease over time during economic recoveries. In the chart below, compiled by the Economic Innovation Group by analyzing Census data, counties with less than 100,000 residents created a third of the nation’s new businesses on net from 1992-1996. During the most recent economic recovery, these same counties did not even register.

In a Brookings Institution report, the United States’ 100 largest metro areas recovered all of the jobs they lost in the Great Recession and added an additional 6 million jobs, whereas the rest of the country combined added only 300,000 jobs over its pre-recession peak.

What is contributing to massive decreases in business establishments in rural areas? In a Washington Post article, Manuel Adelino, an economist at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, describes it as this: “Capital chases high-growth ideas, and high-growth ideas tend to be concentrated in areas of highly educated and highly skilled workforce. This suggests that the lack of new business formation in rural America may lead to widening gaps in income and employment.”

Why a Third Span Likely Won’t Result in Devastating Sprawl

As the business establishment landscape in the U.S. has shifted, so has traditional development patterns. 300 retailers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and nearly 7,000 stores closed nationwide in 2017, beating a record of 6,163 closures in 2008 during the height of the financial crisis. By 2022, many analysts estimate that 1 out of every 4 malls in the U.S. will close as consumer tastes change and more consumers turn to convenience of online shopping.

Companies are also ditching the suburban office park. Real estate advisory firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, published a report on the state of office parks around the country and concluded that 14-22% of the suburban inventory faced a degree of risk in becoming obsolete.

On the residential front, McMansions, once the standard bearer for suburban expansion, are not faring well post Great Recession. Classified as homes built between 2001 and 2007 and averaging 3,000 to 5,000 sq. ft., McMansions are not attractive to homebuyers today and an analysis conducted by Trulia shows the amount buyers are willing to pay for McMansions over other homes has fallen 26 percent in the past four years, despite a recovering housing market.

Millennials, the largest age group in the U.S. at 75 million strong, have fundamentally changed the way America pursues development. They crave transit oriented mixed-use development where they can walk to work and be near bars and restaurants, preferably locally owned rather than corporate chains like Ruby Tuesday and Chili’s (companies that are quickly losing market share to new, hip fast-casual restaurants). This increasingly popular style of development adopts many Smart Growth oriented principles and is very complimentary to the County’s existing towns.

We Already Have a Clear and Defined Precedent

Do we deny that Queen Anne’s County is rural? We don’t because despite the Bay Bridge landing in Queen Anne’s and Route 50 passing through the heart of Talbot, Dorchester, and Wicomico counties, suburban expansion has mostly been confined to small portions of each county. Kent Island has captured most of the suburban expansion in QA and represents 24% of the county’s population yet accounts for only 8% of the county’s land area.

Town % County Population % County Land Area
Easton 44% 4%
Cambridge 38% 2%
Salisbury 32% 3.5%
Chestertown 25% 1%

 

What is clear is that primarily one town in the county that Route 50 passes through captures the bulk of the population and economic growth while only accounting for a very small percentage of the county’s land area, leaving the rest of the county practically unaffected regarding suburban expansion. Just look at Crumpton, Ingleside, Wye Mills, Cordova, Hurlock, and Vienna. Hardly sprawling places.

Furthermore, Route 301 cuts through the eastern portion of Kent County and has extremely limited development around it despite being a major corridor.

What makes a third span landing in Kent  somewhat different than the Bay Bridge in Queen Anne’s is that the largest population center in Maryland—Baltimore—will be directly connected to the smallest. The aforementioned logic still applies. Frederick and Frederick County reinforce the argument of one town capturing the bulk of population and economic growth. Frederick is near Washington, D.C. and its population has grown significantly—32% since 2000. Despite rapid growth and its proximity to D.C., Frederick represents 28% of the population yet is only 3.5% of the overall land area in Frederick County. The County has an excellent and well preserved agricultural heritage and its wineries and agritourism industry is lauded. Furthermore, Frederick consistently ranks among one of the best places to live in the U.S.

We Can Control How the Landscape Develops

The thought that a third span coming to Kent County will result in unmitigated sprawl is not grounded in any fact, just assumptions. What concerned citizens assumptions don’t consider is the County’s ability to govern land use through the Land Use Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan. Detailed in the Land Use Ordinance is everything that is and is not permitted in the county by land use classification. Property rights are strongly protected, preventing certain development from occurring near residential neighborhoods or on productive soils.

The Land Use Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan are interpreted by the Planning Commission and enforced by the Planning and Zoning Department. Within these documents are also design guidelines for development to follow (e.g. placing parking lots in the rear of the building, establishing setbacks, and determining how dense certain areas can be). The Planning Commission and Planning and Zoning Department have the tools necessary to shape how any development occurs.

Furthermore, dense, sprawling development is becoming increasingly difficult to build outside of areas serviced by municipal water and sewer infrastructure, especially in Maryland where strict environmental laws need to be followed. In addition, because of proximity to so many environmentally sensitive waterways, several state agencies—such as the Critical Area Commission—weigh in on development projects, further constraining development and increasing permitting costs and time.

Most notable, large, big-box retailers are already prohibited in Kent County according to the Kent County Land Use Ordinance which caps retail establishments at 60,000 sq. ft.

Store Average Size (sq. ft.)
Walmart Supercenter 179,000
Target 135,000
Kohl’s 70,000

 

Why Technology Likely Won’t Save Us…In the Near Term

With advancement in electric and driverless car technology and development of advanced transportation systems like Hyperloop, surely, we don’t need a third span…right?

Government cannot and should not be in the business of speculating when technologies will become widely available and delay projects on the anticipated arrival of said technology. For decades, we have been “five years away” from developing nuclear fusion power plants to power humanity with cheap, 100% renewable energy. For decades, we have been “near the rollout” of flying cars. By now, we should have colonies on the moon according to the predictions of scientists during the space race. Instead, we haven’t been to the moon in 5 decades.

Self-driving cars stand to revolutionize transportation, but we cannot put faith in technology that is still in development to address immediate concerns and problems.

Why Kent County Needs a Third Span

A third span is highly unlikely to result in county-wide sprawl because contemporary development patterns are finally starting to shift away from dated suburban models. Furthermore, there is precedent regarding what a highway passing through a rural Eastern Shore County does to the surrounding landscape. Most growth is limited to one region or town within the county, preserving much of the rest of the county’s rural landscape.

Rather than using Kent Island, Easton, and Cambridge as justifications to oppose a third span to Kent County, we can use them as models to guide how we accommodate growth and development. Encourage mixed-use development that ties into established towns and villages, build where water and sewer infrastructure is already established, incorporate Smart Growth principles in the design of new buildings and communities, and prohibit development on the county’s most productive soils. We can do all of these things because as a local jurisdiction, we have the power to do so through planning commissions, planning and zoning departments, land use ordinances, and comprehensive plans.

Kent County could benefit from a third span in many ways and I argue the County NEEDS this bridge. Our current demographic state does not bode well for our schools, businesses, nor residents in the long term. Whereas there are bright spots (expansion of Dixon, hospital in Chestertown to remain open, marina revitalization), continued demographic and legislative trends could detrimentally impact the county.

Ask any employer in the county what their number one issue is and 9 out of 10 will likely say “finding and hiring good workers.”

With the county population shrinking, the K-12 enrollment declining, and the median age rising, where are our businesses going to find workers?

Other challenges Kent County will likely face include:

  • Providing rural healthcare is becoming increasingly difficult. Keeping the hospital open in Chestertown was a great victory but expect to have this conversation again soon. In the meantime, dozens of rural hospitals in communities that look just like Kent County are closing nationwide as expenses mount and populations continue to drop.
  • Kirwan Commission could fundamentally change the way schools are funded, penalizing jurisdictions that have small enrollments. With teacher pay lower than Western Shore counties and aging facilities, receiving less support from the State would be devastating.
  • The data clearly shows that rural areas, including Kent County, have lost business establishments and no longer recover at the same rate as urban areas. This trend has gotten so bad that after the next economic downturn, or even before, whatever jobs or businesses are lost in these areas will likely not come back.

With all the very real challenges to be faced, are we really going to let our misguided fear of some development—development that could bring jobs, residents, and an increased tax base—scare us?

Samuel Shoge
Chestertown

 

About Dave Wheelan

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Letters to Editor

  1. Roland Stephen says:

    I congratulate the writer, so often debate in Kent County over economic questions is rather one sided. For example, the existing report on utility scale wind farms and solar energy is a travesty (based on wildly out of date information). This lopsided debate blocks discussion of investments that would bring jobs ($55k per annum for wind turbine mechanics) and tax revenues. Kent County needs both. I suspect an additional span is unlikely for a variety of reasons, but debate on the question should recognize the benefits to working people.

  2. Carol Brown says:

    I agree with Sam.

  3. Marjorie Fick says:

    Excellent points, well presented. I agree.

  4. Joseph Diamond says:

    To the Editor:

    IF, somehow, infrastructure can connect Middletown, DE with somewhere on the I 95 corridor and the Baltimore Beltway (695 ) I can see growth along the now under utilized industrial properties along MD 301. Either of the two of the proposed northern routes would accomplish this . I see minimum impact on northern Kent County parallel to the Sassafras River. Jeff Green will have to push the bridge up button a little more, maybe.

    These routes are approximately aligned to take advantage of solar energy equipment and could defray some of the costs of maintenance and lightning along the route as is done in Europe.

    No Tolchester or Fairlee lifestyle will be corrupted by these proposals. Crumpton will remain as it is. Gentrification of Rock Hall can continue unabated by either route.

    Joe Diamond

    • Joe,
      1) A Sub-Area 1 northern bridge is a not-going-to-happen. Not unless Aberdeen Proving Grounds is decommissioned and put out of service. And that chance is
      some where between 0.00 and 0.00 divided by the value of Pi to the twentieth decimal. The lands on the western shore of Sub-Area 1 in Harford County are almost all APG.
      The land mitigation required for unexploded ordinance would be significant. There is no way a bridge and connecting road infrastructure would be built across APG lands,
      the DOD is not going to allow that. That Sub-Area 1 was a “make you feel good” attempt by MDTA. an olive branch, ‘look at us we have expanded the search site.’
      But I know you knew that, right.

      2) Don’t know where you live, but thanks for your concern for the 200 or so home owners in the greater Tolchester area.

      3) With DE being so much more business-friendly than MD, why would a business locate south of the DE/MD border along 301?
      Would you locate a business in MD, so close to the DE border? Probably not.
      No retail business would for obvious reasons. Kent County is already having to deal with that issue.
      Did Johnson Controls consider a location south of the border? No! Did Amazon? no! Did Walmart with their Distribution Center now located in Smyrna? No!
      The why not is obvious.

      4) You realize, of course, the Middletown By-Pass is not just a ‘Middletown By-Pass’. Was never intended to be ‘just a Middletown By-Pass’ from day one, even though that is the projects name. Not when it starts at the Roth Bridge at DE Ret 1.

      Joe, are you a born-here or moved-here? Your willingness to sacrifice Kent County suggests moved-here, but I could be wrong.

      • joe diamond says:

        Hi Mike,
        I was not born here but arrived as soon as I could. My son was born here…His first book will be called “Chicken-Necker’s Son.” But I do tire of folks who use that participation fallacy logic to puff up otherwise arguable statements. Moving on…

        While I did not address the issues involved with western shore acquisition I would not rule out a route through the Proving Ground . You could be wrong. The stuff they test there is falling out off favor with the military. The Army has other places and bases better connected, should they need such a facility. Computers do wonders these days. Maryland is just not a big enough player to protect that base…in my opinion… The decision about the future of Aberdeen Proving Ground will not be a military one anyway. As pressure to close bases mounts it will be political horsepower that will decide. Do not feel secure that APG is untouchable.

        Tolcherster, I do not think, will ever be part of a bridge plan. They want to releive traffic on the current spans. Nothing I have read even hints that a Tolchester bridge is anything more than an obsolete idea…..but …..it will never be the presence of 200 houses that determines anything. You need to get out more…drive the interstate highways. Two hundred houses is an afternoon of work for road planners.

        Ya got me with that business friendly idea. Businesses do go to DE. The assumption is that a new bridge in the northern part of the county will connect this place with the rest of the world. Some view that as a bad thing. AND it may well turn out that western shore land is too valuable to cut up for roads to connect the new bridge. I look at a route along the Sassafras as a good result if that is what is decided.

        Middletown seems like a hub under construction. Connecting traffic from the south to is using a bridge and roads that bypass Washington & Baltimore seems a next step. A southern MD crossing would do the same thing but would have less traffic flow from the west.

        Finally, you are wrong. I am just an observer. I see forces outside Kent County making the decisions. When they decide a bridge will or will not be built, regardless of local preferences, the dirt will fly.

        Best wishes,

        joe

        • Hey Joe,
          Thanks for your reply.
          Bridge to Tolchester, you are correct, would not happen, but would happen about 1 3/4 miles north, somewhere between Mendinhall Lake and Fairlee Creek, through what is now Fairlee Farm. Nothing there. And it is a 1 Mile Corridor between those two points, which is the parameter for Alternative Corridors of the Bay Crossing Study. Fits their Purpose and Need perfectly.
          My concern that a Bridge to Kent County is in play are 1) the Business Unit of MDOT, the Port of Baltimore, and 2) the Sparrows Point Industrial Complex. In the Port’s Strategic Plan they state, and it is quite well known and written about, their objective is to grow the Port, bring in those mega-cargo ships. So does Sparrows. Sparrows has petitioned the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge their dock areas to allow for them. Albeit, the Port’s Plan also states a hindrance to growth is the area is running out of room. Add in the Port’s objective to reduce local truck traffic through local neighborhoods from I-95 and I see a blueprint being drawn, as MDTA, the lead State agency for the BCS and a Business Unit of MDOT, look seriously at a Bridge here; plenty of room for cargo container storage, chassis storage and parking, and inventorying of shippable materials, which would be just a short drive away. Trucks could come in via the M’town By-Pass, drop off empty cargo trlrs and chassis here, cross the bridge to hook-up to full trlrs/chassis. And Chestertown gets it’s wish for a By-Pass, 4-6 lanes wide, capable of handling plenty of traffic; local and truck traffic. Exit and entrance ramps will be at 213, and we all know what happens at exit and entrance ramps. Developers ask for annexation/water & sewer.
          A NO-BUILD, while an option, is not an option. MDTA staff has stated categorically that the BCS has two deliverables; “where to build a bridge” and “how to pay for it.” Those are quotes. Nothing in their narrative is it indicated ‘if a bridge should be built.’ They state that all previous studies never resulted in a ‘where’, but they are bound and determined to satisfy that ‘where’ directive.
          You’ve probably seen and read about the new Most Dangerous City for 2017. From the eastern border of Baltimore City to the shore line at Fairlee Farm would be just around a 15 minute drive, and to Kent Plaza around a 25 minute drive. Gives one that warm a fuzzy feeling to be so close to what some find a requirement for necessities of life they don’t find here in Kent County.
          Just Sayin’,
          Mike

          • joseph diamond says:

            Hi Mike,

            That dredge thing needs watching. A proposal was shouted down here more than twenty years ago to fill Swan Creek to a huge height producing Mt. Swan. That dredge material became Hart & Miller Islands. Dredge pressure is still a major issue regarding the future of the Port of Baltimore. That is a major factor in the hope for car carriers & sea container shipping into Baltimore. Dredge spoils & empty sea containers would be more harmful to the scenic nature of Kent County. Planning & Zoning can stop that. That is what they do!

            I see what you mean about the drugs and guns of east Baltimore. Last thing this place needs is bigger, better drug suppliers. So there is a choice. Accept the drug flow along with the commerce or reject contact with the rest of the world.

            Keep things as they are…….Knowing that around five 5 % of the population here is employed in agriculture. Thee is not much of a mix beyond that. The educated (HS ) labor pool of Kent County leaves. There is no middle class (my opinion). And a major portion of local commerce is keeping cars running so their owners can commute somewhere else.

            You are not wrong about the things you mention. I see the future as unsustainable. We probably do not have a choice about the bridge. We can speculate what it will be like with or without a bridge through here but those plans will be made elsewhere…..I think.

            Finally….the more I think about it the more I like an approach road system through Aberdeen Proving Grounds BECAUSE it would isolate that east Baltimore Travel Plaza / drug den……from the travel mix.

            Keep looking,

            Joe

  5. Michael Heffron says:

    Mr. Shoge,
    Bravo. You said what I’ve been thinking but in a much more concise and articulate manner.

  6. Louise OBrien says:

    Chestertown Spy readers should read every word of Mr. Shoge’s letter. He is concerned about the future of Kent County if it continues on the same trajectory it has been on for the last several years. He presents some economic facts and other statistics which point to the fact that unless we start allowing commercial development and other signs of progress we’ll continue to slip backward.

  7. joseph Diamond says:

    To the Editor:

    That bit about connecting Frederick County, MD to Washington, D.C. should be a guidepost for the zoning professionals who will watch this project. I 270 into Washington from Frederick is a six lane parking lot every morning. The reverse occurs every evening. Many light rail solutions have been proposed and rejected but, clearly, they cannot build enough roads to connect a huge bedroom community with a major commerce center.

    This does not apply to either Baltimore or the Northern Eastern Shore at this time.

    This is something to watch as the work proceeds.

    Joe

  8. Good points and well presented.
    Really, as another restaurant closes, what options do we have.
    If things do not improve soon, there will be no place left to eat and we will all die from starvation and boredom.

    • Joe, you need to try Imperial, Luisa’s, Fish Whistle, Uncle Charlie’s, Barbara’s on the Bay, Waterman’s, Baywolf, Osprey Point, Harbor Shack, Two Tree, Molly’s, Great Oak, to name a few, apologies to those I missed.

    • Joe, a suggestion, if you will, to look in and around the County some more. I count another half-a-dozen restaurants within Chestertown’s zip code.
      And a few more than half-a-dozen throughout the rest of the County in Rock Hall, Millington, Betterton, Great Oak, Kennedyville. Just sayin’.

  9. Brandt Trop says:

    Dear editor:

    As I’d expect from the former Councilman, a well reasoned argument supported by evidence. As such, he’ll likely be roasted by internet mobs. This will clearly be a bellwether issue in November. If our 36th and those who will occupy 400 High fight tooth and nail to oppose this, it would certainly be with the citizens’ support. But there is a clear tipping point here. If our candidates do not have a plan for maximizing the per capita prosperity of the County, then this span and all its perceived negative effects may be all that’s left. So in essence, we all have an existential question that we need to answer this year.

  10. Barbara Parker says:

    Your points are well taken, but part of the charm of the county is it’s remote nature. Why, before building another bridge span, can there be no discussion of public transportation that would benefit the commuting residents of Kent and surrounding counties, and thereby relieve to an enormous extent the daily burden on the existing bridge? The notion of taking cars off the road as opposed to increasing the number of them able to reach the Shore does not seem to be a consideration. It should be.

    As one who probably stands in the long run to benefit from many of the points you made above, I do not dispute your research. However, I do wish that for just a moment, we could consider a more efficient system rather than irreversibly changing the smallest County. Would it not be lovely to consider instead the preservation of some part of our country as a destination instead of a corridor to somewhere else? This is the real charm of Kent County. You come here to be here. There is merit in that as well.

  11. Beryl Smith says:

    With respect to all the work Sam Shoge has done to present his argument, I beg to disagree. What is wrong with a smaller community? Do all areas have to be continually developing and growing–eating up more land and resources? When we moved to Maryland, 20 years ago, we passed through farmlands that now are stores of one ilk or another in Middletown. Is that what we want Kent County to look like. If there is a bridge into Kent the area will definitely increase. More homes for those who wish to escape Baltimore and live and commute on the Eastern Shore. Look at Centerville as another example of what happens when there is sudden growth–and that happened without another bridge!
    Kent County has assets that many other places do not, and it is incumbent to promote those: arts, bay access and water related activities, small town family living, and yes, for those who worry about “family values” they are more apt to be found in a small supportive community! Continue to go after and promote clean industry such as Dixon, promote educating skills for the jobs that go unfilled, and keep Kent clean–clean air without the pollution of mass transit through the county, and verdant farmlands that grow the crops needed for man an animal.

  12. Excellent L-T-E by Mr. Shoge. All good points.

    However, another MDTA built Bridge to a County along the Chesapeake Bay shore line is not about Economic Development for one of those Counties. Never has been. Even though some people want to make it an Economic Development focal point, topic and theme. Albeit, from a bigger picture, it has always been about the Economic Development of Ocean City, West Ocean City, Ocean Pines, and Berlin, MD. If Mr. Shoge wants to include Economic Development into the discussion, Econ Dev is needed where he works, in Talbot County. Dorchester County, too.

    Those that are driving over the current Bridge for employment opportunities and find it inconvenient should maybe look at opportunities regionally on the Delmarva. Amazon has a huge fulfillment center not that far away employing around 3500; Johnson Controls has a huge facility next door employing around 750; and Walmart has a huge distribution and fleet maintenance facility within close driving distance employing around 750, just to name a few. There are employment opportunities all around if one looks. The DELMARVA is a Regional Economic Engine.

    By-the-way, another Bay Bridge, regardless of where, would not open for another 17-to-20 years. A question to ask is what will things look like in 20 years? The four year Bay Crossing Study Tier 1 NEPA ends in three years, 2020. Then the Tier 2 NEPA Study begins and will take about 7-10 years. Don’t forget the pause for law suits, time-line unknown. Then the design, RFPs, and construction, about 5-7 years. Another bridge won’t open until around 2035, and by that time it is projected at least 30 million autonomous vehicles/modules will be produced annually. All car and truck manufacturers are working on autonomous vehicle/module technologies at an exponential rate. General Motors has petitioned the Fed to allow for autonomous production for 2019. All manufacturers will have autonomous production by 2021. One of the questions to be answered by the current Bay Crossing Study, that started in January, 2017, is “what will transportation look like 20 years from now and it’s affect on Bay Bridge traffic?” MDTA, and the traffic consultant company they contracted, fully realize the impact autonomous vehicles/modules will have. That includes trucks, too. The word that is used to describe autonomous vehicle/module traffic movement is “Platooning.”

    The addition of another bridge has been truly about reducing traffic that travels across the existing bridges to seasonal coastal beach destination-points. The origin-points for all that traffic, codified by studies, shows that there is an equal distribution, 50/50, from southern and northern origins. HOWEVER, 70% of that entire traffic load heads south/southeast to those seasonal coastal beach destination-points, which, by-the-way, include Delaware beaches. Some people say ‘to heck with those DE travelers!’ Sorry, facts are facts. The current Bay Bridge is the only crossing for the 170 miles expanse from the C&D Canal to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel at Cape St. Charles. It’s a Regional subject!

    Talbot and Dorchester Counties Comp Plans discuss the significant traffic Easton and Cambridge have to endure during seasonal coastal beach travel times. They would, no doubt, like to see an end to that. A By-Pass from the Rte 301/50 split to below Cambridge would solve their issues. And would help with the below thought process……

    Looking at the bigger picture, a point that requires significant consideration for the location of another Bay Bridge is a life-threatening catastrophic weather event that requires the mass evacuation of the Delmarva Peninsula, from Dover south, as exemplified last summer in the south Atlantic. Saving lives trumps Econ Dev, especially during peak seasonal coastal resort tourism. MDTA’s responsibility exceeds just Marylanders. Considering 2035 County population figures per MD and DE Depts. of Planning: Queen Anne’s; Talbot; Dorchester; Caroline; Wicomico; and Worcester Counties, MD; and Sussex County, DE add up to well over 600,000 full-time-residents looking to safely evacuate the lower Delmarva. Add to that number the seasonal coastal resort tourism populations of OC, West OC, Ocean Pines, Berlin, MD, and then Fenwick, South Bethany, Bethany, Sussex Shores, Rehoboth, Henlopen, Lewes, DE, you have well over 1,000,000 people trying to evacuate the lower Delmarva Peninsula. All will be heading northeast, following the blue and white Evacuation Route signs that funnels and leads traffic to the current Bay Bridge. What results is a disastrously and dreadfully overwhelmed road infrastructure system. An additional northern crossing does nothing to lessen the burden of this calamitous situation. Yes, some will travel north towards the bridges that cross the C&D. But those will be people that live in that area. [The residents of Somerset County, MD, and the two VA Counties may head south to the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. However, if that life-threatening hurricane is coming from the south, evacuating to the north may be the more prudent plan.]

    Here is another question to answer: If a bridge were built to Kent County, where would it go to? To 301 for sure. But then what? Back into Rte 50? That defeats the purpose and need for another Bay Bridge. You know that Chestertown By-Pass we’ve all been requesting from MDOT for decades. Well, it may become a reality; 4-to-6 lanes wide, handle plenty of traffic, big entrance and exit ramps just north of Chestertown on the KC side. Oh, and you northern QA County residents, Chester Harbor, you’ll have big entrance and exit ramps, too. It will cut right through Kent County as it will be part of the road infrastructure needed for the new Kent County Bay Bridge, all the way to Rte 301 & 300, so trucks can get to Dover and Smyrna. And what follows entrance and exit ramps? You can just imagine the annexation requests. Fairlee Farm, gone. Fairlee and Melitota, look for that WaWa or Royal. Fair Hill Farm, probably gone. Horizon Dairy, probably gone too. Those that don’t like countrified air will be pleased, though.

    Then there’s the Middletown By-Pass effect. With the Port of Baltimore and Sparrows Point Industrial Complex just over the Kent County Bay Bridge, truckers will just love by-passing I-95. The Port and the Complex want to grow, want to accept those huge mega-cargo ships, but are running out of room to store cargo containers and chassis, and all other shippable goods. I think eminent domain trumps Comp Plans and Land Use Ordinances, though, as the State eyes some vacant land over here to satisfy that need. A Tourism highlight just waiting to happen. You know that the Port of Baltimore and MDTA are Business Units of MDOT? Right!

    I believe Kent Countians, current and future generations, should be scared of Kent County becoming a suburb of Baltimore City and Baltimore County for a number of reasons, not the least of which can be seen by tuning in their News. It is naive to think Comp Plans and Land Use Ordinances will stop developers and the State. I propose we err on the side of caution. Once you pave over Kent County stick a fork in us, we’re done.

  13. Janet Christensen-Lewis says:

    Futures are tricky to predict.  Are we going to risk all the positive cards we hold for the promise that a bridge will bring a brighter future more than a decade from now (one more generation of school students), or are we going to use this opportunity to talk about the way forward in making our county better for all right NOW?

    Shoge’s piece is fundamentally skeptical of any average rural community to survive without modern, overwhelming growth (controlled or not). Yet we hold many core assets that make us quite rare among rural communities nationwide: 1-G county wide internet, surrounded by water on three sides, beautiful open space protected from development for many generations, access to the many outdoor activities, farmer’s market, and a vibrant arts scene, to name a few – we are far from average, we have choices, and working together we can build a future from what we have, not what we think we might possibly get.

    The number of jobs in Kent County per 1000 residents exceeds that of Queen Anne’s County 382.3/286.6. The myth of no jobs is false because, as he points out, employers face difficulty hiring.

    Keeping the Chestertown hospital open would not be possible with a bridge. The rationale for a rural hospital fails and the Chester River Hospital along with the employees disappear.  Maybe we will be left with an urgent care facility.   But, Hopkins and U of M will be closer that Easton and I would disagree that we should give up on the hospital now, as Shoge seems to suggest. What are we to do in the ten to fifteen years before the bridge arrives to rescue us?

    Sam’s support for a third span does not say exactly how the bridge helps Kent County. How does a bridge change Sam’s facts that “Capital chases high-growth ideas, and high-growth ideas tend to be concentrated in areas of highly educated and highly skilled workforce”? The New Map of Economic Growth and Recovery, by the Economic Innovation Group, points out that only 73 counties in the US with 34 % of the population are producing 50% of the jobs, Baltimore is not one of those counties and neither is Kent. Their conclusion was that growth is driven by access to capital, particularly venture and other risk capital. The capital that is referred to by the Washington Post article that he sites nor the venture capital mentioned in the EIG report are likely to show up in Kent County soon or ever.

    A bridge would have the potential to cause leakage of the current population of educated and skilled workforce to the western shore, or conversely somehow draw that same demographic, with many options available where they currently live, to get in a car and drive to Kent County, neither of these seem like a growth solution. The other option, which has the most potential, is that we become the cheaper house ownership alternative, for commuters. This would be one that would have developers full attention. No doubt it would create low wage service sector jobs, but is that the employment opportunities Kent County is aspiring to. This also creates a problem, because we know that when the housing markets get tight prices go up, hurting the same demographic we are trying to help.

    Finally, I find a contradiction in support for a bridge while stating that Millennials “crave transit oriented mixed-use development where they can walk to work and be near bars and restaurants”. A Bay Crossing as now proposed by MdTA would be a project requiring billions of borrowed dollars that would mortgage our future and preclude any other major infrastructure Maryland, including transit, far into the future.

    Should a bridge turn out to not be the solution to “bring jobs, residents and increased tax base”, we will not be able to have it removed. It will stand as a constant reminder that we rolled the dice and lost. Yes, demographics are against rural communities, but not necessarily here. It is incumbent on us to think outside the standard economic development box.

    • Lolli Sherry says:

      I am very much in accord with Janet’s argument that we are not just another rural county, and among the many unusual attributes she points out she doesn’t even mention Washington College. Kent is not your average nowhere county with fewer than 100,000 residents. Considering the brainpower that resides here in both from-heres and come-heres, there has to be a better solution to growth than a soul-killing structure like the Bay Bridge. I also point to Barbara Parker’s call for public transportation up and down the Eastern Shore as a big part of any solution. And since the major backups on the present bridges are caused by recreational Shore traffic, a rapid transit lane added to the current span would decrease overall auto traffic without any negative impact on Kent Island and the Rt 50 corridor. I want to throw out one more question that’s been puzzling to me. We have commercial shipping channels running close to our shoreline. It seems as if the highest span of a bridge needs to be over the ship channel, and then it must slope gently back down to land for a mile or two. So wouldn’t this bridge be a looming eyesore over several miles of rural landscape at least?

      • Hi Lolli,
        If I might answer the questions about adding a rapid transit lane to the current span[s] and the Tolchester Shipping Channel;
        the current spans cannot support any additional architecture, not double deck lanes, not mass/rapid transit. A new superstructure would have to be built to support any additional lane, whether vehicle or mass/rapid transit. Without doubt, if an additional east bound span were built, its architecture should be sufficiently designed to support both an additional vehicle east bound lane AND mass/rapid transit. Albeit, that is up to MDTA.
        The Tolchester Shipping Channel is about 1000 feet off shore. A northern bridge would require a 100 foot clearance, water-to-underside of a bridge. So, yes, the peak clearance would be close to shore and the down side slope would continue inland for quite some distance, certainly much more than the current spans at Sandy Point and Kent Island.

      • joe diamond says:

        Hi Lollie,

        You are correct about the shipping channel.

        Water depth off Howell Point (near Betterton ) is around forty feet. and the big ships have to go there. If a bridge is built to span the channel it will have to be high enough to cleat the highest ships. The land at Great Oak is pretty high; perfect. From the entrance to Fairly Creek you can see it. Of course it would be ugly in the same way the other spans are……but the channel will not move.

        There is hope.

        The bad news for the channel & the port of Baltimore…..and, by extension the C & D canal is the silting issue. The Chesapeake is part on an intercostal waterway that was built to allow shipping to proceed even with tNazi submarines in the nearby Atlantic during WW II. As the cost of dredging continues to rise the Chesapeake port, Baltimore, might be bypassed as the Chesapeake channel drops in shipping prominence.

        The short list of obstacles to a northern bridge = The channel location, as you mention.
        Aberdeen Proving Ground…….Could block roads over on the western shore….I doubt it,,,others do.
        Any place you look on the western shore in Baltimore County or Harford County is populated, unlike Kent County.
        Interstate I-95 serving adequately there is the major north / south railroad system. These will have to be crossed.
        Maryland has a well established Reach-the-Beach faction. They are protecting the cash cow that is Ocean City.

        So all is not lost…….. yet.

        joe

        • Lolli Sherry says:

          I live on one of the highest bluffs along Fairlee Creek, which is 30 ft. I’m guessing Great Oak isn’t a whole lot higher…so if it is even 50 ft. it would make no difference. A bridge would still need to continue a considerable distance over the Fairgale development and into farmland before it could touch down.

          • joseph diamond says:

            I think every little bit helps……but they look at many things. There are cliffs on the other side near Solomon’s Island that are higher……joe

  14. Carl M. Gallegos says:

    I support Mr. Shoge’s position in this matter. Various sites are being studied for building a new bay bridge, and a decision has not been made to build it in Kent County. However, I believe it is inevitable that a new bay bridge will be built, and it will have a significant economic, environmental, and social impact not just on the specific location where it is ultimately built, but on the entire Eastern Shore. Having conducted and supervised NEPA Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) during my career, I know that by law, citizens have an opportunity to review the results of an EIS, make comments during the various phases of the EIS, and to ultimately mitigate the economic, environmental, and social impact of the bridge when it is built. The residents of Kent County and the Eastern Shore have a unique opportunity to not only have a voice in determining where this bridge will ultimately be built, but they will also have a voice in determining how it will be built. My recommendation is that the citizens of Kent County and the entire Eastern Shore avail themselves of the opportunity that NEPA regulations provide to make make informed comments during the various phases of the NEPA Environmental Impact Study, and make certain the new bay bridge is built in a manner that has a positive economic impact, and minimizes the environmental and social impact.

  15. This article makes a nice case for the economic focused reader but it assumes money and sq footage directly effected are the only metrics worth using. If money was my only concern I wouldn’t live in Kent County. I and many others live here because of the quality of life Kent County offers. We are the smallest and most isolated county in Maryland and we have a quality of life that money can not by. Why do you think people of means pay inflated prices and do with out many conveniences to live here ? Your argument reminds me of the logging interest argument to destroy the last 5 % of virgin forest in the United States. 95 % of a finite entity wasn’t enough for the money hungry hogs, and all would not have satisfied them either. They lost that argument and I don’t have any trouble buying 2 x 4’s yet. In fact Donald Trump has done more to inflate the cost of building materials than the spotted owl. Telling us that a bridge won’t make that much difference is like saying we could invade Iraq, be met by people in the streets with flowers, and the war will pay for it’s self. How’d that work for ya people ? The bridge will bring crime, noise and pollution to Kent County and to say it won’t takes a level of insincerity possessed only by those greedy for money and unappreciative of the things money can’t buy .

    • Deirdre LaMotte says:

      Thank you, everything you say is right-on. Where on the east coast has a highway / bridge not destroyed the landscape?! I cannot believe people are actually complaining
      when they could drive a half hour and get their so-called “necessities”. My god, can we leave one area untouched from commerce? The only good thing about this whole bridge
      situation is it takes one’s mind off of Trump for a minute or two. Sort-of.

  16. Nancy Robson says:

    Economics is part and parcel of how we put together a cohesive, thriving county and collection of communities, yes, but it is not the sole foundation. That said, I just want to note several points Mr. Shoge’s opinion piece brought to mind.
    1. Kent County is also the smallest county in the state, so having the fewest residents is only logical.
    2. I’m willing to accept the 19,730 population number for Kent and the 2010 census-to-now (according to what source?) decline of 2.3% without double-checking the writer’s facts. But what he may not realize is that 40 years ago, the county population was 16, 700, a net gain of 18% in, remember, the smallest county in the state.
    3.While the writer asserts that land ordinances and the Comprehensive Plan will protect land use, the reality is: Land ordinances are only as strong as enforcement, and often require lawsuits to enforce them against hostile moneyed interests (and sometimes against our own state agencies!), a huge drain on local pocketbooks to say nothing of the intense time and effort those protective battles have demanded over the years by private citizens and nonprofits, notably Kent Conservation, Inc. and (since APG was mentioned) the Coalition for Safe Disposal of Chemical Weapons (CoSAD). CoSAD spent 6 exhausting years in a multi-pronged fight we took all the way to Congress over and over to prevent a chemical weapons incinerator being built at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which would have put Kent County citizens directly downwind of the (carcinogenic) dioxins emitted by the incinerator’s stacks. (We successfully lobbied and fought for and won a neutralization plant, which safely disposed of all of the mustard gas stored at APG). As an aside, APG’s grounds may somehow have been mitigated since, but the land was years ago declared a Superfund site including live unexploded ordnance embedded in the ground. Tough to build on — at least for those who are doing the excavating I would assume.
    4. “Finding and hiring good workers” is a lament heard across the country, not simply here – and in some cases — agriculture for one — that difficulty is partly tied to the struggle over immigration, since so many of our farm workers, (again, not in Kent County alone but throughout the country) are from other countries including Mexico, Guatemala.

  17. A significant reason, and maybe the number one reason, why no one should want a Bay Bridge from “there” to “here”

    Baltimore is the nation’s most dangerous city
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/02/19/homicides-toll-big-u-s-cities-2017/302763002/

    • joseph diamond says:

      Mike, Mike, Mike!
      You seem to have a good command of this topic and you express yourself clearly………………You are better than this! “Research” from USA Today? Talking Head TV commentators interviewing a new police chief over in Bmore? Big graphs without any data? Finally, Donald Trump explaining stuff everybody already knows…………… You are better than that.

      Cities are not dangerous…some of the people in cities can be dangerous….some of the time. I saw a similar argument expressed by a retired MD State Police officer…..He thought bad things came from the current Bay Bridge complex and corrupted Kent Island.

      How about? A bridge would connect this place to several of the leading specialty hospitals in the country. Major universities including teaching hospitals are over there. Yes, there are football & baseball stadiums. Those lights you see at night are an interstate highway system…it will take you places! People who live here can go over there to work.

      Regarding the drugs and crime…..They are here. Heroin is killing our kids here…now. Property crimes are rising because junkies steal. If you move beyond the fog generated by the TV wonks, Donald Trump and USA Today (can’t believe you did that! ) you would find that many or most of the homicides in cities are related to dealers fighting among themselves….they do not want to hurt or scare their customers. Within the crime analysis done by the cops you will find clusters of pins in maps that show where the turf wars are. They will not come here to fight over this small, rural area…betya! Local druggies will do that as they have been doing.

      Again, this is all discussion. The bridge that is added to the highway system will come here or not regardless of what we conclude. Just do not scare the ladies unnecessarily….please.

      joe

      • Hi Joe, et al,

        I make no apology, but scare the ladies, and the gentlemen, is exactly what I am attempting to do, if that is what it takes!

        So, what level of Baltimore crime would be acceptable to y’all, as Kent County would become a suburb of Baltimore, vs compared to what we have in Kent County?
        Would Baltimore being 2nd on the list? Or 4th? How about 10th?
        Come on Joe, et al, Kent County would be changed irreversibly should a Bridge be built here.
        We need a support group to debate that a Bridge to Kent County is a very bad idea, even with the Economic Development ideas and initiatives presented and offered.
        What are we willing to sacrifice of our Kent County? Please explain, Joe, what you are willing to sacrifice!

        I am not, as many others, willing to sacrifice any Quality-of-Life we have here. Let’s find a solution to E.D. that does not demolish and lay-to-waste to what we have.
        There is no pill that will easily correct our E.D. issue. Albeit, a comprehensive plan that includes a “Sales Strategy”, a “Sales Action Plan”, to promote what Kent County is all about to regional business interests is what is required. How about members of the County Economic Development Board attend Job Fairs in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern NE Region to “Sell what Kent County is all about” to prospective companies! Job Fairs are all about growing companies. It is the Best Place to look for companies, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, press-the-flesh as it were, and meet those that are expanding and growing regionally, that might consider Kent County as a growth area. Even considering our close proximity to DE. Just don’t let the State of MD Dept of Econ Dev in on it, as they will want to divert any prospective company to a “Distressed County”, which Kent County is not. I have personal experience in this matter.

        • Joseph Diamond says:

          Mike,
          Good question….What am I ready to sacrifice? Well, since they are not mine I would replant the farms as forest. I’d cause hydroponic truck farms and a fish hatchery to be developed. I’d stuff solar generation into every flat roof surface or appropriate field until this place was exporting power after operating every local lighting and heating requirement.

          Beyond that, enhancing internet capability and improving a few roads while putting in a regional airport no bigger that that now at Easton would be a major improvement. Resolving the Chester River bridge issue so no prayer is required to cross the river would be on the list.

          Of course much of the above is not possible…but since you asked there it is. I am prepared to consolidate the local school systems….. SYSTEMS!….and many local government functions. Kent, Queen Anne & Caroline counties……taken together……. do not have the population to support all the administration we have.

          Clustering the housing to make possible a modern water & sewerage system could follow. This would also make police & fire service more efficient. It would even go a long way towards controlling the crime wave you predict will follow any bridge. From these clusters a public transportation system could also spring.

          So that is about it. Get rid of the farms. Eliminate private housing that is too isolated to service. Arrange public transportation. Consolidate industries into industrial parks near the improved roads & nice new bridge.

          No problem.

          Joe

  18. Briggs Cunningham says:

    Great piece, Sam…reasoned and well-stated. I still believe that the region (indeed the whole country) would benefit greatly with high-speed trains linking various cities and tourism hubs. I imagine that adding to the existing cross-bay infrastructure would cost significantly less than planning and building a whole new third span somewhere else. Maryland could be a model project other regions could then emulate. Forward bravely!

    • Janet Christensen-Lewis says:

      I am confused by your comment. On one hand Sam’s piece is “reasoned and well-stated”, yet you believe”the region would benefit greatly with high speed trains linking various cities.” Sam’s piece is all about asphalt, concrete, cars, congestion and CO2 not a rail line. How would that make Maryland a model? A new bridge and access roads would just be another highway infrastructure project paving over farmland and open space and spending billions of borrowed dollars that would be paid for far into the future. I think you will find that the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy has a vision far remove from Mr. Shoge’s and more to your liking: Where are the Eastern Shore Roads Taking Us. https://www.eslc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Regional-Transportation.pdf

  19. Jamie Williams says:

    Thanks to Sam Shoge for starting this discussion and thanks to all who weighed in. I learned so much from reading each and every post. Perspectives that my life experiences would not have afforded me. Anyone who reads the entire article, and comments, will have at least one or two or ten “ah ha moments” on this subject. This is exactly what we should be doing as a community, educating one another on what matters to us and future generations.

  20. Eliott fuhrman says:

    Wow the bridge has brought out so many great interesting remarks even through if it is built non of writers will be around to. Cross it .Lets think about the NOW .We need substainability for school ,health services , utilities ,quality of life. to do this need to increase county revenue,fix reposition shopping centers and most important get rid of un.of md hold on our health care.So what about now 018,first my bonifides include addingl. Im tax revenue ,1500 jobs in n.j.,phila. Do not agree with Sam County of Kent can grow move forward with our current infostructure with out a Bridge. How, by building out stepney manor for 175 life still ,net zero homes, By replaceing armory with boutique 60 room hotel and having college build an excutive event center on water front .Funds are available ,and if stared now could be all in 21 months

  21. Kirk Mac says:

    Nice try! But this discussion should not be about jobs, smart growth and an increased tax base. You can have that discussion in any other part of the state. However, we are discussing a jewel of Maryland- the historical and beautiful countryside abutting the largest estuary in the US. This argument should be a state-wide discussion on what we would like to leave future generations: more subdivisions and fast food outlets, or a region that’s know for vast farms, local fishing towns, the Chesapeake byways and quaint waterfront communities tied to the founding of our country. No, this is much bigger than jobs and taxes and the impending traffic and crime that it brings. It’s about what Marylanders value now and into the future.
    A way of life and a visitor’s experience that they can’t get back home. Build it, and they will come. Unfortunately, that means that the bay, it’s serenity and bucholic charm will go away in Kent County. All for what? So motorists, in their frenzy can get to OC or the Deleware beaches a little more quickly? That would be a disaster for Marylanders, their children and the habitats that everyone has been touting in bay cleanup efforts. And it would be completely short sited.

    • Dan Menefee says:

      Kent is very effective at repelling growth and innovation in the interest of preserving land and culture. Just look at our ever shrinking tax base and school system. Those who’ve opposed wind, solar, Walmart and a third bridge span have failed to offer any alternative economic plan to help restore/grow the tax base? It seems that we prefer Kent continue on its path to becoming a super majority retirement community. If so, let’s be candid about it.

      And we’re not looking at runaway growth. The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, established limits on development in agricultural/rural areas. And thanks to Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton of Charles County, the law preserved local zoning control of land use if push came to shove with the state. Shoge is correct that Kent has all the statutory powers it needs to limit development in a manner that best serves the will of our county. We can still say “no” to Walmart and limit the size of developments whether a bridge comes here or not.

      I find it increasingly hard to reconcile the ongoing fight to save our hospital with our militant rejection of any kind of growth. Every time the population here shrinks it becomes more difficult to justify a full service hospital to state officials. We can’t have it both ways.

      • Kirk Mac says:

        Again – this should be a state-wide discussion on the future of the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay as a cherished and protected area for future generations. Controlled growth is just that – growth. If the argument is about shrinking populations and hence reduced resources and infrastructure to support communities, then the onus is on local politicians and business communities to devise a plan to ameliorate those issues. Spending billions of dollars on a bridge with the sole intention of speeding thousands of cars to the “beaches” of two states is hardly a plan to solve the issues you identified. It’s akin to solving the homeless problem by depending on tourists to drop a quarter in their buckets.

        • Dan Menefee says:

          People might stay in the community if they had a job to go to in Baltimore — just 30 minutes of less away; it’s about traffic going the other way as well. So while a bridge could prevent some bottle-necks on the current two spans, it could also help people here in Kent have better access to the labor markets in Baltimore. People who don’t want to accept the under employment in Kent are probably wealthy/privileged enough not to give a damn about the economic disparities here. Preservation is certainly a part of the discussion, but it has little meaning to someone looking over the beautiful landscape on a empty stomach. Are you aware that over a third of the population in Chestertown lives in poverty? Is this OK with you in the name of preservation?

          • Poverty is everywhere – include the richer counties. In the name of jobs, we deforest mountains, over fish the bay and oceans until there’s no more work for anyone and build over land that should be protected. This country is the most open and free in the world. You go where the opportunities are and that’s also been part of the fabric of our country. I am glad we put up barriers in the form of national parks and protected areas and protected species so all can enjoy. Those principals were also under threat for the sake of jobs and growth pressures as well. It’s the difference between the US side of Niagra Falls and the Canadian side in terms of philosophy. One is a blight surrounding a beautiful natural treasure and the other a long term vision leaning toward preservation.

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