Nice Bridge re­place­ment is an ur­gent need

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

This let­ter was sent to Gov. Larry Ho­gan ( R). A copy was sent to the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent.

I read with in­ter­est your pub­lic state­ments sup­port­ing con­struc­tion of a full re­place­ment of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge, as re­ported in the Bal­ti­more Sun last week. This rep­re­sents a step in the right di­rec­tion, since your ad­min­is­tra­tion had pre­vi­ously ques­tioned the need for the project. While I ap­plaud your state­ments, ac­tion is needed now to im­ple­ment this project.

The Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s re­cently re­leased draft cap­i­tal pro­gram is dis­ap­point­ing in the ef­fort to re­place the bridge for two rea­sons — it shows project sched­ule de­lays and no con­struc­tion funds have been in­cluded. Charles County and Southern Mary­land have made the Nice Bridge a top pri­or­ity for years. Please di­rect the Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity ( MDTA) to ex­pe­dite the project to avoid fur­ther de­lays. And — most im­por­tantly — please pro­gram the con­struc­tion dol­lars needed to build it.

The sit­u­a­tion is ur­gent:

• The 76- year- old bridge has a deck that will reach the end of its use­ful life by 2025- 2030 and will need re­place­ment. Con­struc­tion fund­ing must be added soon to meet a tar­get date of Dec. 31, 2030 for open­ing of the new bridge.

• Adding con­struc­tion dol­lars to the cap­i­tal pro­gram now will show Mary­land’s com­mit­ment to the project and put pres­sure on Vir­ginia to act on fund­ing its share of the project.

The project is needed:

• For safety: The Nice Bridge is the only MDTA fa­cil­ity — high­way or bridge — with­out a me­dian sep­a­ra­tion be­tween op­pos­ing di­rec­tions of traf­fic at all times. The steep bridge has no shoul­ders and the lanes are nar­row.

• For se­cu­rity: The bridge serves as a crit­i­cal evac­u­a­tion route in the event of a na­tional dis­as­ter or se­cu­rity alert, links the re­gion’s mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties and busi­nesses, and pro­vides

the only di­rect, log­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to I- 95 for travel be­tween the Wash­ing­ton metropoli­tan area and Rich­mond, Va., in the event of a ma­jor in­ci­dent or clo­sure on I- 95.

• Econ­omy and qual­ity of life: Traf­fic back­ups can stretch for miles on week­ends in the sum­mer, as U. S. 301 traf­fic con­tin­ues to grow. Pro­jec­tions show an in­crease in traf­fic of 45 per­cent on week­days and 33 per­cent on week­ends by 2025.

• A re- deck­ing to ex­tend the life of this aging fa­cil­ity, as sug­gested ear­lier by Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Pete Rahn, would be short­sighted. Pre­vi­ous anal­y­sis al­ready re­jected this op­tion. It would be highly dis­rup­tive and would not ad­dress the cur­rent in­ad­e­qua­cies of the bridge. A project lim­ited to the re­place­ment of the deck with­out the avail­abil­ity of an ad­di­tional Po­tomac River cross­ing will place an un­due hard­ship on vi­tal U. S. Depart­ment of De­fense fa­cil­i­ties in the area and on other users of the bridge. It could re­quire de­tours of more than 100 miles. It would also ul­ti­mately leave in place an in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­ity. After years of study, the MDTA’s pre­ferred de­sign re­ceived fed­eral ap­proval which in­cludes two lanes in each di­rec­tion, shoul­ders and a me­dian sep­a­ra­tion. This was sup­ported by the pro­fes­sional staff of the MDTA and fed­eral agen­cies.

Con­struct­ing this project is also a ques­tion of fair­ness and re­gional equity. Southern Mary­land res­i­dents who have been pay­ing the tolls on the Nice Bridge have waited pa­tiently while the MDTA has funded ma­jor projects in other re­gions of the state.

You have the abil­ity to take ac­tion now:

• The project is ready to go.

After years of study, the MDTA re­ceived fed­eral ap­proval of a Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Act ( NEPA) study in 2012, sup­port­ing the need for the project and pro­vid­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­provals. Pre­lim­i­nary en­gi­neer­ing and right- of- way ac­qui­si­tions were funded three years ago and are un­der­way. Funds for fi­nal de­sign and con­struc­tion are needed to get it done. • The money is avail­able. State bud­get an­a­lysts con­cur that there is ca­pac­ity within the MDTA from toll rev­enues to fund con­struc­tion.

Thank you again for your state­ments of sup­port of this project. Please know that I stand ready to as­sist in mov­ing this project for­ward. Ear­lier this year, out of a con­cern about a lack of ac­tion by your ad­min­is­tra­tion to build the bridge, I spon­sored leg­is­la­tion that would have ded­i­cated funds for the con­struc­tion. As you know, the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed it and you ve­toed it. If leg­is­la­tion is not needed to se­cure the con­struc­tion funds this year, I would wel­come and ap­plaud this. What mat­ters to Southern Mary­land and the users of the Nice Bridge is see­ing ac­tion now from state gov­ern­ment on re­plac­ing this aging fa­cil­ity with a new, ex­panded bridge cross­ing. Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton ( D), Wal­dorf The writer is a Mary­land state sen­a­tor rep­re­sent­ing Charles County.

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