We have the bridge, for­get the pol­i­tics

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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.

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