Ches. City Bridge work caus­ing mixed eco­nomic im­pact

Weather, shal­low basin hurt­ing more, some say



— More than seven weeks into the Ch­e­sa­peake City Bridge work that is caus­ing traf­fic back­ups and headaches — es­pe­cially bad dur­ing rush hours — town busi­nesses are re­port­ing a mixed eco­nomic im­pact.

Ch­e­sa­peake City Mayor Dean Geraci­mos said he


has stayed in con­tact with the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers, which is over­see­ing the pro­ject, to hash out any res­i­dent com­plaints about the pro­ject.

“It started off re­ally ugly, but the com­plaints about the pro­ject have gone down dras­ti­cally here at town hall,” he said.

Geraci­mos noted that the town is do­ing what it can to help tourists con­tinue to get to town as headache-free as pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing re­quest­ing work stop­pages for the Fourth of July fire­works and Au­gust Li­ons car show. So far, he’s heard from both busi­ness who say they’ve been neg­a­tively im­pacted by the traf­fic back­ups and oth­ers who have seen no change.

“We hope we’re do­ing enough to help our busi­nesses sur­vive,”he said.

Some busi­ness own­ers con­tend the re­paint­ing pro­ject, which will close one lane of the bridge for sev­eral more months, has had less of an im­pact on rev­enues than the poor weather or in­creas­ingly shal­low town basin.

Gian­marco Mar­tus­celli,

owner of the Ch­e­sae­peake Inn Restau­rant & Ma­rina, said the im­pact on his busi­ness has been hard to gauge, be­cause May was down with its rainy weather, while June was higher than nor­mal. In July, the ex­treme heat has caused many to avoid eat­ing out­side — one of the main at­trac­tions for his wa­ter­front busi­ness, es­pe­cially in the sum­mer­time.

“Quite frankly, the lack of dredg­ing has hit us harder than the bridge work,” he said Thurs­day, not­ing that many of his pa­trons come from the south or east in Delaware, who can uti­lize back­roads like Bethel Church Road and avoid the bridge.

The is­sue of dredg­ing the town basin, which has be­come so shal­low that larger ves­sels are turned away and smaller ones have to watch the tides to avoid get­ting stuck is one that Mar­tus­celli is watch­ing closely.

“The smaller ves­sels can get in and have lunch, but they’re not re­ally spend­ing the night,” he said. “It’s a dou­ble-edged sword though, be­cause if you come in with a larger ves­sel and dock, you’re not leav­ing. With smaller ves­sels though, a slip turns over faster.”

Town and U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers of­fi­cials said this spring that they would be tar­get­ing the fall months for such a pro­ject, but Mar­tus­celli has yet to re­ceive word on any move­ment.

“To be hon­est, I’m re­ally wor­ried about the prospects of dredg­ing this fall,” he said. “I don’t think it’s hap­pen­ing in Oc­to­ber, be­cause I would have got­ten pa­per­work by now if that were the case.”

Mar­tus­celli con­ceded that his restau­rant is likely not as im­pacted as some of the smaller busi­nesses, be­cause as an event hall, many peo­ple are re­quired to come re­gard­less of road­work. But he be­lieves that the shal­low basin is hav­ing a trickle-down ef­fect on other town busi­nesses.

“A deeper basin helps ev­ery­one, be­cause if you’re stay­ing overnight with us you’re not go­ing to just stay on your boat, you’re go­ing to walk into town to see the shops,” he said. “I look at us like an an­chor store in a shop­ping cen­ter. If you come for us, you’re go­ing to check out what is nearby.”

Bob Roethke, owner of Inn at the Canal bed and break­fast, agreed with Mar­tus­celli that so far his busi­ness has not been dra­mat­i­cally im­pacted by the bridge work.

“I look at it as a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience,” he said Thurs­day, not­ing it mainly has just added time onto his travel and pickup of in­ven­tory. “I re­ally haven’t had any com­plaints from guests, who mostly have said, ‘Ya, it’s an in­con­ve­nience, but it is what it is.’”

Roethke said he hasn’t seen a de­crease in his book­ings at all, and in fact may cur­rently be see­ing an uptick from his sum­mer­time av­er­age. He at­tributes that growth to re­de­vel­op­ment of the inn’s web­site to make it more user friendly and co­op­er­a­tion with larger list­ing web­sites.

“Our week­ends are fine here,” he said. “I only have seven bed­rooms here and we al­most al­ways sell out through our bed-and-break­fast sea­son. I turn away a lot of folks on our busiest week­ends.”

Roethke said his busi­ness has mainly been im­pacted by the weather as well, though not in the same way as the Ch­e­sa­peake Inn.

“In some of the bad storms last week­end, we had tree limbs felled and about 200 feet of plas­tic net­ting that blew onto our roof and wrapped around it,” he said, adding that he sus­pected the plas­tic came from the bridge’s work site.

“It’s an in­con­ve­nience, but it could have been worse. Like any­thing, you just have to learn to adapt,” he said.

But not ev­ery­one has said that the have es­caped the im­pact of the bridge work.

Shar­ron Tay­lor, shop­keeper at the Old Gray Mare Gift Shoppe, who has worked at the Bo­hemia Av­enue shop for three years, said that this sum­mer has been par­tic­u­lar tough.

“Be­sides the weather, the bridge has def­i­nitely not helped,” she said. “Things have slowed down tremen­dously since last year.”

Tay­lor said that shops like hers de­pend upon sum­mer­time and Christ­mas­time tourism to drive an­nual rev­enues and wor­ried that a pro­longed in­con­ve­nience via the bridge work could dig a deep hole for smaller shops to get out of fi­nan­cially.

“I hope that peo­ple can stick it out for next year,” she said.


While traf­fic can back up for miles dur­ing rush hour due to on­go­ing Ch­e­sa­peake City Bridge work, busi­ness own­ers are re­port­ing a mixed eco­nomic im­pact.


Mary­land Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Joe Barten­felder spoke in de­fense of fam­ily farms, among other topics at Ag Day at the Ce­cil County Fair Tues­day.

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