We have the bridge, forget the politics
Well, it’s official. The Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge is finally going to be replaced.
It has been at the top of the Southern Maryland transportation wishlist for many, many years, and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made the surprise announcement last week at the site of the current bridge. Construction will begin in 2018, with a targeted opening of 2023. The $806 million project was received with applause from nearly everyone who has traversed the bridge over the past couple of decades. Crossing it on a windy day makes one’s knuckles white, and inclement weather can put some on the verge of panic maneuvering across the narrow, two-lane structure.
The time to replace the bridge was long overdue. It was nearing the end of its life without needing significant repairs that would have been extremely costly and short-lived.
So, we’re all happy the bridge is being replaced. Well, most of us are — but some are not so happy about how Hogan, or our local legislators, went about it, depending on who you ask.
During his press conference, Hogan made a point to say that the Southern Maryland Delegation played political games during the last General Assembly Session when a bill to replace the bridge, assembled by the delegation, was sent to Hogan, who immediately vetoed it. In talking with legislators last week, they noted they intended to override Hogan’s veto, which is likely why he went ahead and worked with the Maryland Transportation Authority and Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn to come up with a plan to replace the bridge, noting that his plan cost significantly less (about $200 million) than the plan submitted by the delegation. He also noted that his plan would finish the bridge seven years earlier than the delegation’s plan.
Also of note, none of the Southern Maryland delegation was invited to attend Hogan’s press conference, and we were told that some members were flat-out told not to come. It may be that Hogan and the delegation simply disagreed on how funding and replacing the bridge should come about, but it sounds like both sides are playing politics, with Hogan coming out looking like the winner.
Regardless of how it came about, we do know how much of a priority the bridge has been to Charles County representatives for a long time. Some would argue that former Gov. Martin O’Malley snubbed the Southern Maryland region, mostly focusing on transportation projects in urban counties, the population that elected him. That would be a fair assessment. If there is anything to be noted about Hogan it’s that he doesn’t seem to want to engage in the tit-for-tat style of politics many in Annapolis tend to like. He may get all the credit right now for the bridge replacement, much to the dismay of those who have worked to get it replaced for a very long time, including Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles), but taking the credit isn’t what government is supposed to be about. We as the electorate want results and are happy when we get them. The posturing is unnecessary, regardless of who is doing it.
We hope both sides will take this moment and realize they can get things done. It would just be so much easier, and more rewarding for all of us, if they could learn to do it together.