Hogan taking Middleton’s credit
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effects of this plan and his contradictory statements were to jeopardize the replacement of our state’s oldest and most outdated major bridge.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