Two weeks ago, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the redecking of the westbound span of the Bay Bridge would be completed a year early, possibly by this summer. Three-lane traffic would resume.
Christmas can arrive early, offering gifts wrapped in good news and visible relief. That’s the case here.
Life looks brighter, unclouded by delays and frustration.
During the past six months, few of us have avoided long, aggravating back-ups due to a necessary but poorly planned project affecting hundreds of thousands of trips across the Bay Bridge. The inconvenience and stress were palpable. Conversations often began, “You won’t believe how long I had to wait at that damn bridge.”
Kudos to Hogan for listening to the howls of angry despair when the westbound span’s right lane was closed at the end of September. The governor would have had to plead real or feigned deafness when massive back-ups occurred in both Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s counties. He responded immediately and demanded that the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) act quickly to reduce the uproar.
And so it did. The contractor began working 24 hours a day, instead of in stages. The eventual cost of the projected $27 million project is unknown at this point. The public will benefit from the additional cost.
Any belly-aching would be meaningless; two years, instead of one, would have cost unmeasurable mental anguish.
While Hogan’s rightly-focused fury on relieving back-ups of 14 miles at times expedited the project, another factor came into play: climate change. We have enjoyed warmer temperatures. Concrete “cures” better in warmer conditions.
Indications of climate change/global warming usually generate negative reactions among many concerned about the human contribution to degradation of normal climatic cycles. So, it’s ironic when unseasonably warm temperatures have beneficial effects.
I’ve written frequently about my love-hate relationship with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. For nearly 30 years, I commuted from Easton to Baltimore and Annapolis. Traffic conditions on the two spans became periodically unpleasant parts of my work day. As it did for thousands of others.
I suspect that 2019-2020 will be a seminal year for Hogan and MdTA. I predict that public sentiment will begin leaning toward a third Bay Bridge span. Memories of miles-long traffic delays will be fresh in the minds of motorists who use the 4.3-mile Bay Bridge to commute, shop, keep medical appointments or travel to see friends and family—not to speak of emergency medical vehicles heading to hospitals.
I have many reservations about a third Bay Bridge span and its environmental impact on life on the Eastern Shore. I question the continued dependence on cars to travel.
My qualms and concerns likely will be useless. The die is cast, I believe. The governor already has stated his preference for a third span adjoining the existing two.
Thank you, Gov. Hogan, for demanding a resolution to the bridge mess. The MdTA quickly altered the redecking rehabilitation project.
Delays won’t cease yet. However, the future looks promising.
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.