Ho­gan tak­ing Mid­dle­ton’s credit

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

I am writ­ing in re­sponse to Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s re­cent ac­tions re­gard­ing the re­place­ment of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge. While I ap­plaud any progress we can make in re­plac­ing this bridge, it is dis­may­ing to see Gov­er­nor Ho­gan (R) at­tack the leg­is­la­ture in gen­eral and in par­tic­u­lar Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) for their role in this project.

The Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity has been en­gaged in a process of re­plac­ing this bridge since 2003. The pro­gram was on track and plan­ning was un­der­way un­til the gov­er­nor’s ac­tions to re­duce tolls in 2015. This can be re­garded as lit­tle more than a par­ti­san stunt, the ef­fect of which was to al­low the gov­er­nor to hold a press con­fer­ence and tell the cit­i­zens that it was a few dol­lars cheaper to go on va­ca­tion. The re­sult of this plan de­railed the process of re­plac­ing the bridge, which Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt at­tended the grand open­ing of in the early 1940s.

The trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity stated pub­licly to the cit­i­zens of South­ern Mary­land and to mem­bers of our leg­is­la­ture on many oc­ca­sions that the re­place­ment of the Harry Nice Bridge would be its next ma­jor pro­gram. After the toll re­duc­tion plan was an­nounced, the gov­er­nor made mul­ti­ple con­tra­dic­tory state­ments about the fu­ture of the bridge re­place­ment. He stated at the time that the plan would have no ef­fect on it, and later said there had been no com­mit­ment to the ac­tual con­struc­tion and then later mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion said that the vol­ume of traf­fic on the bridge did not jus­tify the cost of re­place­ment. The ef­fects of this plan and his con­tra­dic­tory state­ments were to jeop­ar­dize the re­place­ment of our state’s old­est and most out­dated ma­jor bridge.

Sen. Mid­dle­ton last year in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to re­store the fund­ing and en­sure the trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity would move for­ward with the bridge re­place­ment. The gov­er­nor ve­toed this leg­is­la­tion, com­plain­ing about in­ter­fer­ence by the leg­is­la­ture, but it is in­ter­est­ing to note that the gov­er­nor made lit­tle or no ef­fort of any kind to con­tact or work with Sen. Mid­dle­ton around this leg­is­la­tion.

It is now dis­may­ing to see the gov­er­nor crit­i­cize Sen. Mid­dle­ton. He has been the most per­sis­tent and longterm ad­vo­cate for the bridge’s re­place­ment. Dur­ing a long and painful process of rais­ing tolls a num­ber of years ago, he gave his sup­port to the toll in­creases which were needed to fund many statewide projects as a way of en­sur­ing that the next ma­jor cap­i­tal project done by the trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity would be the re­place­ment of the Harry Nice Bridge.

We owe Sen. Mid­dle­ton a debt of grat­i­tude for his lead­er­ship and we also need to sup­port him as he en­sures that the gov­er­nor will give us a clear and con­cise plan about how he in­tends to pay for the new bridge.

The gov­er­nor spoke of cost sav­ing mea­sures he in­tends to pur­sue, and I would point out that th­ese mea­sures were adopted by the staff and the bridge re­place­ment work group of the trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity board, be­fore he was elected.

I served as a mem­ber of the au­thor­ity rep­re­sent­ing South­ern Mary­land for some years. It is run and man­aged by ex­tremely ca­pa­ble and ded­i­cated cit­i­zens. I would note with in­ter­est that South­ern Mary­land no longer has a rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the trans­porta­tion au­thor­ity. It seems very clear that the only “po­lit­i­cal an­i­mal” in this process has been Gov­er­nor Ho­gan.

Michael J. Whit­son, Me­chan­icsville

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