Letter to the Editor: Is a 3rd Bay Bridge a Good Idea?

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I want to add some thoughts to Howard Freedlander’s excellent column in the Spy of January 29, 2019 regarding a contentious 3rd Bay Bridge. I originally focused on a new bridge to Kent County since this seemed the most likely crossing option and Kent County residents are already alarmed.

From the economic standpoint in Kent County, there could be some reason for a 3rd bridge. Unfortunately, I see the unintended, but very foreseeable, consequences of a new bridge far outweighing the benefits.

Middletown, Delaware seems to be a huge concern to the Kent County people. I agree that Middletown is a poster child for destruction of a small town and its surrounding countryside. It makes me sick every time I ride through there. What forces allowed or caused this to happen I wonder.

To me, a better example of the threat to Kent County is what has happened to Kent Island; creeping sprawl, creeping haphazard commercial sprawl and inappropriate development.

I go back to the time of the 2nd ferry (Sandy Point to Mattapeake) before the first bridge. We lived in Catonsville after WW2 and went to Ocean City every summer. I remember waiting in the long line for the ferry; but then Kent Island was largely undeveloped rural countryside. The 1st bridge went in in 1952 and the 2nd in 1974 and you know the rest of the story of what has evolved over 66 years, not just to Kent Island but to other eastern shore counties as well. There is little doubt in my mind that a 3rd bridge will make history repeat itself. The rural character of Kent County will change for the worse forever. Maybe the rest of us too, depending on where the infrastructure (road) goes.

Kent County has a Comprehensive Plan I’m sure. While I haven’t seen it, like ours for Talbot County, I’ll bet it calls for preservation of the rural country side and quality of life. A bridge and associated infrastructure sure works against this.

An idea of a toll or limited access road to the bridge is an interesting one. I guess if you have to have a bridge, this might be the least worse option. I’ll bet there would be a huge battle over how many and where the exits would be. Over time many of the exits would assume the same characteristics that we see at exits all over the USA. Is this good?

My next comment concerns us in Talbot County. I have no idea where a road/roads serving a new Kent County bridge might go. If it goes inland and skirts Talbot County, traffic on Route 50 might actually go down for a while. I doubt this would be the case 60 years after the 3rd bridge opens. Heaven help us if a widened 213 connects in to the present Route 50. Perhaps 50 will be widened to 6 or 8 lanes. Or elevated going through Easton. Or a bypass around Easton like Salisbury (then 309 or 328 0r 331 can develop like Route 13 in Salisbury – a mess). Also, would it stimulate more development than would otherwise occur?

But wait, don’t options 8, 9, and 10 noted in Mr. Freedlander’s piece cross the Bay into Talbot County and connect to Route 50 in or near Easton. Unimaginable! Our County would be ruined.

Obviously, I am not in favor of a 3rd bridge but I do understand its importance to the “reach the beach” people, maybe economic recovery in Kent County, and probably real estate interests. But, the effects of a 3rd bridge are too high a price to pay.

Roger Bollman
Easton

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Letters to Editor

  1. Keith Thompson says

    Let me address this comment and question…”Middletown, Delaware seems to be a huge concern to the Kent County people. I agree that Middletown is a poster child for destruction of a small town and its surrounding countryside. It makes me sick every time I ride through there. What forces allowed or caused this to happen I wonder.”

    The answer is a couple of reasons…

    First, for decades the Middletown area has had an influx of people moving there from Wilmington, Philadelphia, New Jersey, etc. due to lower taxes and home affordability. The fact that the Appoquinimink School District is recognized as one of the best (if not the best) school district in the state also serves as a huge draw. Also, the state and New Castle County has designated the Middletown area as a growth area and the state projects the Middletown area to be the largest metropolitan area in the state by 2030. Keep in mind, historically Middletown’s influence in New Castle County (thanks to Wilmington and Newark) is roughly equivalent to Galena’s influence in Kent County. Middletown’s growth was geared toward the acceptance they could’t stop the growth around them but that they could annex the property into the town and manage the growth better than the county could. Considering Middletown ran a 6 and a half percent budget surplus last fiscal year while the county recently raised property taxes by 15 percent, it does bolster the town’s point of view.

    Chestertown and Kent County should not be concerned about Middletown (except as a competing shopping destination) and even the growth that would result from a Bay Bridge will not turn Chestertown into Middletown, because there’s simply not the development pressure here that Middletown has. That’s not an argument for or against the bridge, but I believe Kent County is as powerless to stop a third bridge as Middletown was to stop the growth around the town. The key is how does the county and town react whether or not the bridge is coming to Kent.

    • Are we powerless to stop a bridge to Kent County as Keith Thompson said? Can we keep another bridge away from Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties? Does the lower shore want a bridge? Is this already decided by state planners? Can we get answers from anyone? How do our representatives to Annapolis feel about this issue?

      • Keith Thompson says

        Joyce, I think it simply comes down to numbers…the Western Shore has a larger population and therefore more political power to get what they want, especially in a top-heavy political state like Maryland where counties and municipalities have less power than in most states. This is the same reason why the gerrymandering in the state sacrificed the Eastern Shore’s representation in Congress in favor of one Republican district and why the Eastern Shore is now represented by a Western Shore conservative.

  2. Stokes Tomlin says

    Thanks

  3. Roger, roger that!

  4. Gren Whitman says

    Solution for now should be “congestion pricing” (congestion charges / differential pricing) on the two existing spans.
    Drivers would pay higher or lower toll depending on when they use the bridge. Higher tolls charged during peak hours and less for off-peak and late-night crossings. Maybe even FREE from midnight to 4 a.m.? Seems like a no-brainer, and LOTS cheaper!

    • This idea could be implemented rather quickly and at very little cost. It would be a good case study of whether drivers would be will to change their driving habits to save some time and money. It should be a first step before there is any decision as to whether there should be another bridge ( and it’s supporting road infrastructure ) built.

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