Op­po­si­tion is stead­fast to a Bay cross­ing in Kent

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL DIVILIO ddivilio@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CH­ESTER­TOWN — “Fail­ing an atomic bomb dropped in Kent County, I am hard-pressed to think of an out­come I could con­sider more dis­as­trous than the ad­di­tion of a Bay Bridge span and the ru­ina­tion it would bring to our beau­ti­ful home.”

So wrote res­i­dent Kate Livie to the Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Author­ity in De­cem­ber. Livie was pro­vid­ing com­ment on the MdTA’s cur­rent study of po­ten­tial sites for a new Ch­e­sa­peake Bay cross­ing.

The agency has made avail­able on­line the more than 300 pages of com­ments and let­ters re­ceived as of March 31.

I read all com­ments and let­ters posted at www.bay­cross­ingstudy.com. While my count­ing meth­ods prob­a­bly did not ad­here to sci­en­tific guide­lines for enu­mer­at­ing sur­vey re­sponses, I sought to cre­ate a tally of the com­ments re­ceived by the MdTA.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how our com­ments are ‘sum­ma­rized,’” one person wrote in a De­cem­ber email to the MdTA.

The sim­plest sum­mary is that while the MdTA has cut the main stem of the Bay into six sub-ar­eas for the cur­rent phase of a fed­er­ally re­quired study on a new cross­ing, com­ments nar­rowed the scope to three lo­ca­tions: the site of the Wil­liam Pre­ston Lane Jr. Me­mo­rial (Bay) Bridge land­ing in Queen Anne’s County, a north­ern cross­ing into Kent County and a south­ern cross­ing to ei­ther Dorch­ester County or Som­er­set County.

There were com­ments fa­vor­ing each and op­pos­ing each. Some want no new cross­ing at all. Oth­ers called for al­ter­na­tive meth­ods to al­le­vi­ate traf­fic at the Bay Bridge: mass tran­sit, en­hanced tolls or ferry ser­vice, to name a few.

The two lead­ing trends were staunch op­po­si­tion to a north­ern cross­ing ter­mi­nat­ing in Kent County and sup­port for a south­ern cross­ing.

Other com­ments fo­cused on the process, of­fer­ing in­sights into what the MdTA should con­sider. And some com­plained about is­sues with web­sites or pre­sen­ta­tions.

“Your web meet­ing did not work. If you are go­ing to of­fer this type of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, you need to make sure it will work for all who wish to join,” some­one posted on the study’s web­site in De­cem­ber.

The MdTA has not iden­ti­fied a pre­ferred cor­ri­dor within any of the six sub­ar­eas un­der re­view, nor has it sug­gested any new route across the Bay. Study lead­ers have re­peat­edly stated that ev­ery­thing is still on the table. The sched­ule posted on the study web­site states that the range of cor­ri­dor al­ter­na­tives will not be iden­ti­fied un­til the fall.

In pro­vid­ing copies of the com­ments and let­ters re­ceived, the MdTA redacted much of the writ­ers’ iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion. Where I have listed an au­thor’s name, I have re­ceived his or her per­mis­sion to pub­lish it.

The study is a multi-year $5 mil­lion ef­fort “that will re­sult in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a pre­ferred cor­ri­dor al­ter­na­tive to ad­dress con­ges­tion at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Bridge and eval­u­a­tion of its fi­nan­cial fea­si­bil­ity,” ac­cord­ing to the MdTA web­site. An ini­tial pub­lic com­ment pe­riod on the scop­ing of the study ran from Oct. 11 to Dec. 15, how­ever ci­ti­zen in­put will be sought through the course of the study.

“Pub­lic com­ments and the level of pub­lic op­po­si­tion or sup­port will be taken into ac­count. Pub­lic in­put is key to the study, as it helps the Project Team iden­tify com­mu­nity needs and con­cerns and eval­u­ate po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal (nat­u­ral, so­cioe­co­nomic, and cultural) im­pacts,” wrote MdTA Pub­lic Af­fairs Man­ager John Sales in an email May 3.

The Num­bers

There are 323 pages of pub­lic com­ments avail­able on the Bay Cross­ing Study web­site. Many of those pages have any­where from three to eight com­ments on them. Some com­ments ran mul­ti­ple pages; com­ments sub­mit­ted in De­cem­ber by Tolch­ester res­i­dent and op­po­si­tion ac­tivist Mike Waal ran five pages. I did not count the over­all number of com­ments.

Many com­menters cast votes, if you will, for mul­ti­ple op­tions.

One com­ment left on the study’s web­site in Novem­ber asked for ev­ery­thing but another span next to the Bay Bridge. The writer sug­gested “spend­ing some real money” and build­ing north­ern and south­ern cross­ings.

“And while you’re at it, what about a ‘chun­nel’ style cross­ing? High speed rail un­der the Bay from DC and Bal­ti­more, with lim­ited stops — maybe one or two on the western shore and one or two on the east­ern shore,” the writer sug­gested. “And then there’s the old-fash­ioned ferry. To­day’s high speed hov­er­craft fer­ries can han­dle a good number of cars in short or­der. Maybe a mix of so­lu­tions is what’s needed in­stead of another band aid.”

So in look­ing at my tally, this writer cast a “no” vote for a Queen Anne’s County cross­ing, “yes” votes for north­ern and south­ern cross­ings, a vote for a tun­nel, a vote for mass tran­sit and a vote for ferry ser­vice.

So what are my not-quite-sci­en­tific, wholly un­of­fi­cial tal­lies?

There were 54 com­ments in fa­vor of a north­ern cross­ing and 280 — the most votes on any op­tion — against it. Mov­ing south, 55 com­ments fa­vored another span in Queen Anne’s County, while 37 op­posed one. The most af­fir­ma­tive votes came in for a south- ern cross­ing, with 136 com­ments. Only 16 writ­ers op­posed the idea of a south­ern cross­ing.

Sixty-six writ­ers said do not build another bridge.

“This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Let’s pile more cars on the shore with their sin­gle lane high­ways, that makes no sense at all. It’s bad enough be­ing here in the sum­mer and try to get to work or any­where else for that matter, with no way to get around with all the bumper to bumper cars,” a life­long Shore res­i­dent posted on the study web­site in Novem­ber.

Another writer said that in­creased ease of ac­cess to the Shore would bring more de­vel­op­ment, hurt­ing an econ­omy re­liant on clean wa­ter and ru­ral lands. The writer said the added ac­cess would dam­age the very rea­son peo­ple come to the Shore.

“Sum­mer bot­tle­necks and back-ups are as much a Mary­land tra­di­tion as Natty Boh and Old Bay. Please leave them be,” the au­thor wrote.

Some sug­gested find­ing other ways of fix­ing traf­fic. Twenty-two writ­ers floated ideas like ad­just­ing the ap­proaches at the Bay Bridge. En­hanced tolls, whether go­ing all elec­tric or set­ting dif­fer­ent prices for high vol­ume pe­ri­ods, were sug­gested by 58 writ­ers. Two com­menters sug­gested new land routes.

There were 17 writ­ers who of­fered the idea of build­ing a tun­nel in­stead of a bridge. Four writ­ers said take the Bay Bridge higher and add up­per decks.

Af­ter en­hanced tolls though, the lead­ing al­ter­na­tive ideas fo­cused on mass tran­sit, with 55 com­ments, and ferry ser­vice, sug­gested by 24 com­menters.

There also were sev­eral com­ments that sug­gested MdTA seek to mit­i­gate the fear of heights com­mon among mo­torists on the Bay Bridge. One writer con­fessed to hav­ing night­mares about it.

“When you build the new bridge, please make it user friendly for those who fear heights. I go to the beach each year and have to pay some­one to drive my car across it. Scari­est bridge in the world,” another com­menter wrote.

Sixty-nine writ­ers of­fered no dis­cernible opin­ion. They com­mented on the process or web­site is­sues.

Cross­ing to Kent

A Bay cross­ing land­ing in Kent County re­ceived the most com­ments and the strong­est show of op­po­si­tion. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies stretch­ing back more than half a cen­tury iden­ti­fied Kent County as a po­ten­tial site.

“If you build a bridge into Kent County I will move to Wy­oming,” some­one post- ed on the study web­site in De­cem­ber.

There also are Kent County res­i­dents in fa­vor of a bridge here and the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment it could bring.

One young Ch­ester­town busi­ness owner wrote in Jan­uary of his sup­port for a bridge land­ing in Kent County, cit­ing a shrink­ing school dis­trict, re­duced ser­vices at the town’s hos­pi­tal, ram­pant opi­oid ad­dic­tion, young pro­fes­sion­als mov­ing away and strug­gling small busi­nesses.

The com­menter wrote about how Kent County has been “ex­tremely anti-de­vel­op­ment,” while the growth that would oc­cur due to a bridge would raise the qual­ity of life in the area.

“I have no idea what your stud­ies have shown at this point, but the feed­back given by the ma­jor­ity of Kent County might be that of au­to­matic pes­simism, and an un­aware­ness of what state their county is ac­tu­ally in and what it needs to sur­vive,” the busi­ness owner wrote.

I reached out to the busi­ness owner about be­ing iden­ti­fied. Fear­ing back­lash over the com­ments, the writer asked to re­main anony­mous.

An or­ches­trated move­ment con­tin­ues to grow in op­po­si­tion to a Kent cross­ing. Groups like the Kent Con­ser­va­tion and Preser­va­tion Al­liance and Stop the Span, the lat­ter of which Livie is a lead­ing ac­tivist with, are gain­ing mem­bers and spread­ing the word to fight against a north­ern cross­ing.

A fo­cal ar­gu­ment by the op­po­si­tion is the need to pre­serve Kent County’s ru­ral her­itage and scenic beauty. The KCPA started its life a few years ago as Keep Kent Scenic. Signs can be spot­ted around the county and in the towns stat­ing, “No Bay Bridge to Kent.”

On its web­site, the KCPA of­fers three dif­fer­ent form let­ters it sug­gests sup­port­ers send to the MdTA in op­po­si­tion to a bridge here. I counted 37 of those let­ters in the pub­lic com­ments pro­vided by the MdTA.

“I do not want a bay bridge cross­ing into Kent County, cre­at­ing a mas­sive scar on our pris­tine agri­cul­tural and his­toric lands, ru­in­ing our thriv­ing farm econ­omy and de­stroy­ing his­toric sites,” one of the KCPA let­ters states.

The KCPA sug­gested peo­ple in­clude their own sto­ries to the form let­ters, just as the fol­low­ing writer did.

“Our fam­ily has owned farm­land in the Ch­ester­town area for over 100 years. It pains me to think of the de­struc­tion a bay cross­ing into Kent County would bring to the beau­ti­ful land­scape,” the writer added by hand to the typed form let­ter.

Ch­ester­town na­tive Ly­dia Woolever started her sub­mis­sion to the MdTA with a KCPA form let­ter, but greatly ex­panded it to talk about her child­hood in Ch­ester­town, rid­ing horses near Quaker Neck, work­ing at the his­toric White Swan Tav­ern and Play It Again Sam’s and her ini­tial vow upon grad­u­at­ing high school to leave and never return.

“But af­ter many years at a na­tion­ally renowned magazine in New York City, and now as se­nior ed­i­tor at Bal­ti­more magazine, I see noth­ing but po­ten­tial in my home­town, and I plan to start a fam­ily here. I plan to raise my chil­dren in Kent County, to have them grow

up with the same morals and ethics and safety and soli­tude that al­lows great imag­i­na­tions and ideas to blos­som, as it did for me,” Woolever wrote.

As with many other writ­ers op­posed to a bridge in Kent County, Woolever spoke about the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing the “quiet corners where young peo­ple can learn about na­ture,” the “old growth forests that have yet to be turned into as­phalt” and the “an­cient homes and struc­tures and scenic vis­tas that de­tail the course of Amer­i­can his­tory.”

“Because once it is gone, it is gone for good. Kent County has not yet been swal­lowed up by chains or hous­ing de­vel­op­ments or high­ways or traf­fic,” she wrote. “I spend enough time in Bal­ti­more and An­napo­lis to know that a bridge — a di­rect con­nec­tion to those sprawl­ing cities with their dis­ap­pear­ing cul­ture that’s quickly re­placed by a new condo or strip mall or park­ing lot — would ruin Kent County’s in­tegrity. It would ruin its nat­u­ral beauty. It would ruin its his­tory and its com­mu­nity and its peo­ple. It would ruin its fu­ture.”

Speak­ing last month, Janet Chris­tensen-Lewis, chair­man of the KCPA, said the group was very pleased to see Kent County res­i­dents step up and send let­ters, the ma­jor­ity of which, “with very few ex­cep­tions,” op­pose a bridge here. She said the let­ters picked up af­ter the group held a meet­ing in Jan­uary to raise aware­ness of the Bay Cross­ing Study.

In ad­di­tion to pre­serv­ing Kent County’s ru­ral scenery and life­style, con­cerns also in­cluded bring­ing “ur­ban prob­lems” to the area.

“To think that all of the trou­bles of Bal­ti­more could be just a fif­teen minute ride away from ru­ral county Kent is ap­palling,” one com­menter wrote in De­cem­ber.

Still, some res­i­dents wrote to the MdTA that some­thing needs to be done in Kent County, and a bridge may fa­cil­i­tate that.

“Please build a bridge right through the heart of Kent County. This county is dy­ing, and the lo­cal hi­er­ar­chy does not want to al­low change or mod­ern­iza­tion in any way. A new bridge would force it to change. The lo­cal school sys­tem is abysmal. The lo­cal hos­pi­tal is down­siz­ing. There are few jobs and even fewer em­ploy­able cit­i­zens with mar­ketable skills. There is no com­mu­nity sup­port for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren,” said one writer in De­cem­ber.

One writer, pre­sum­ably from the western shore, of­fered com­ments about how lo­gis­ti­cally, a north­ern cross­ing to Tolch­ester would help re­lieve traf­fic on the other side of the Bay.

“How­ever, this lo­ca­tion may make sense for the western shore lo­gis­tics but I don’t know of the im­pact it would have on the East­ern shore en­vi­ron­ment, res­i­dents and in­fras­truc­ture there,” the com­menter wrote.

Another writer, likely from Kent County, was em­phatic in his or her sup­port for a bridge.

“The Bridge should come to KENT COUNTY. This county needs to join the mod­ern world,” the writer said.

Other Cross­ings

A south­ern cross­ing re­ceived sim­i­lar com­ments as a north­ern cross­ing into Kent County, only the num­bers were re­versed. More fa­vored a south­ern cross­ing and the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment it could bring to Dorch­ester County or Som­er­set County, while the scant op­po­si­tion voiced con­cerns about pre­serv­ing the nat­u­ral beauty of the area.

“Please build the bridge from St Mary’s County across to Dorch­ester County. The peo­ple of Cam­bridge Mary­land need the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” a com­menter wrote in Novem­ber.

Another echoed those sen­ti­ments, but for Som­er­set County.

“The bridge needs to go south maybe com­ing into Som­er­set County. That county could cer­tainly use the in­flux of jobs and tourism. We cer­tainly do not need more traf­fic in the north­ern part of the bay,” wrote one com­menter who sounds like he or she does not live on the Lower Shore.

Some noted that Lower Shore population cen­ters like Sal­is­bury could ben­e­fit from more di­rect ac­cess to a Bay cross­ing.

“We have a large population, par­tic­u­larly around Sal­is­bury, that is very iso­lated from the west side of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay because we have to drive so far to the North to get to the Bay Bridge in or­der to cross. The lower shore can be­come an eco­nomic pow­er­house with a more di­rect route to Wash­ing­ton D.C. and vis­i­tors trav­el­ing to Ocean City would have a shorter route, lead­ing to more fre­quent vis­its,” one writer said in Novem­ber.

One com­menter op­posed to cross­ing into Dorch­ester County said it would be “an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter.” The com­menter called the area’s marshes “a na­tional trea­sure” that would be damaged by “a su­per­high­way” from Tay­lors Is­land to U.S. Route 50.

“Stay the Hell Away from Cam­bridge, we don’t want it, and we don’t need it. Build it with the other ones. Leave us alone. You de­stroyed Kent Is­land now don’t de­stroy us. We can make your life Hell. Believe me we can. And we won’t stop un­til we do,” another writer sub­mit­ted to the study web­site in De­cem­ber.

Queen Anne’s County is seen as a prime lo­ca­tion by some for a new cross­ing because it al­ready has one with the twin spans of the Bay Bridge and the req­ui­site high­way in­fras­truc­ture.

Some of those fa­vor­ing a third span in Queen Anne’s County ar­gued that since the dam­age to the area had al­ready been done, why bur­den another lo­cale on the Shore.

“If there is a third span, it should be as close to the present lo­ca­tion as pos­si­ble. Kent Is­land has been ru­ined by the bridge, and while it is a nec­es­sary evil, there is no sense ru­in­ing another town,” one com­menter of­fered in De­cem­ber.

Another writer said the MdTA should first build a six-lane bridge to Queen Anne’s County and then over­haul the cur­rent spans.

“Put a toll on go­ing both ways and you will see it pay for it­self even­tu­ally,” the writer said.

Op­po­nents to another Queen Anne’s County span said the area is maxed out on both sides of the Bay.

“The route 50 cor­ri­dor at An­napo­lis can­not han­dle fur­ther traf­fic. Best to di­vide east­bound traf­fic with a span at a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion,” a writer said in Novem­ber.

One Kent Is­land res­i­dent called for im­prove­ments at the cur­rent cross­ing and for the ad­di­tion of north­ern and south­ern cross­ings.

“This would help spread the traf­fic bur­den to other ar­eas and not just dump more traf­fic at the cur­rent cross­ing,” the au­thor wrote. “If the state de­cides to only make im­prove­ments at the ex­ist­ing cross­ing to in­crease ca­pac­ity then I sug­gest they plan to buy peo­ple out of their homes so they can move elsewhere because they will ruin our way of life.”

Home­land se­cu­rity was on another com­menter’s mind.

“There’s no doubt an ad­di­tional cross­ing point is needed, but it should be at ap­point that pre­cludes a ter­ror at­tack from knock­ing out all cross­ings. In other words, not at the cur­rent cross­ing,” the person wrote.

Al­ter­na­tive Ap­proaches

En­hanced tolls and mass tran­sit led the com­ments for al­ter­na­tive means of ad­dress­ing traf­fic to the Shore.

“I would sug­gest re­quir­ing all or most trav­el­ers to use EZPass, re­duc­ing the number of toll lanes at any one time to no more than two EZpass lanes per avail­able east­bound travel lane (to re­duce the fan­ning out and sub­se­quent fun­nel­ing of traf­fic), widen toll lanes and boost the speed through the toll lanes,” a writer said in Novem­ber.

Oth­ers sug­gested chang­ing toll rates, such as in­creas­ing them dur­ing peak hours to en­cour­age mo­torists to travel at dif­fer­ent times.

“En­cour­age driv­ers to use the bridge at off peak hours by elim­i­nat­ing the toll al­to­gether and make peak hours more ex­pen­sive. The bridge is hardly used at night. This would re­duce peak traf­fic con­sid­er­ably,” a com­menter sub­mit­ted in De­cem­ber.

Pro­po­nents of mass tran­sit said the state needs to be for­ward-think­ing.

“No matter where you place the new bridge, please in­clude a pas­sen­ger train tres­tle bridge along with it. A train to Ocean City or Ber­lin will greatly re­duce traf­fic across the bridge. I can’t un­der­stand why this hasn’t al­ready been done,” one writer posted to the study web­site in Novem­ber.

Another writer sug­gested look­ing at ma­glev trains or a hy­per­loop, a sys­tem still un­der de­vel­op­ment and cham­pi­oned by tech­nol­ogy mag­nate Elon Musk.

“I believe that the de­part­ment of trans­porta­tion should con­cen­trate its time, en­ergy and re­sources to build the trans­porta­tion sys­tem of the 21st and 22nd cen­turies, not the trans­porta­tion sys­tem of the 20th cen­tury. The like­li­hood is that 30 years from now we’ll be mov­ing peo­ple very dif­fer­ently than we do to­day,” a com­menter wrote in Fe­bru­ary.

Ferry ser­vice too was a re­cur­ring sug­ges­tion.

“I believe this is bet­ter for the com­muter, lo­cal economies and the en­vi­ron­ment. Ferry ser­vice can be im­pli­mented [sic] in just a few years while a bridge would take decades to fi­nance and build. Plus a ferry would add a level of ap­peal that a bridge can’t touch,” one writer said in Oc­to­ber.

A number of those fa- vor­ing tun­nels in­stead of bridges ref­er­enced the one un­der the English Chan­nel and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Bridge Tun­nel. A com­mon ar­gu­ment for a tun­nel is that it would be cheaper to main­tain.

“Build a tun­nel par­al­lel to the cur­rent lo­ca­tion, [ sic] A tun­nel is in­her­ently less ex­pen­sive,” one com­menter wrote in De­cem­ber.

Study In­for­ma­tion

The Bay Cross­ing Study is on­go­ing. The MdTA main­tains a web­site — www. bay­cross­ingstudy.com — with in­for­ma­tion on its ef­forts, in­clud­ing copies of the pub­lic com­ments re­ceived so far.

Com­ments are still be­ing ac­cepted and en­cour­aged, ac­cord­ing to Sales, the MdTA spokesman.

They may be sub­mit­ted through the study web­site, via info@bay­cross­ingstudy.com or sent to Bay Cross­ing Study, Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Author­ity, Di­vi­sion of Plan­ning and Pro­gram De­vel­op­ment, 2310 Broen­ing High­way, Bal­ti­more, MD 21224.

The MdTA also started a se­ries of pub­lic meet­ings this month on the study. Ac­cord­ing to the study web­site, at­ten­dees will learn about the project’s pur­pose and need, scop­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and pub­lic com­ments, the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view process and the al­ter­na­tive cor­ri­dor de­vel­op­ment and screen­ing process.

One is be­ing held from 6 to 8 o’clock tonight at Kent County Mid­dle School in Ch­ester­town. The school is lo­cated at 402 E. Cam­pus Ave.

“Staff will be avail­able to an­swer ques­tions. No for­mal pre­sen­ta­tion will be given, and the same in­for­ma­tion will be pro­vided at each meet­ing. All meet­ing ma­te­ri­als will be avail­able at bay­cross­ingstudy.com to view prior to the meet­ings and for those who choose not to at­tend in person,” the site states.

Ad­di­tional meet­ings on the Shore will be held from 6 to 8 p. m. Thurs­day, May 17 at Cam­bridgeSouth Dorch­ester High School and from 6 to 8 p.m. Tues­day, May 22 at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege in Wye Mills.


Op­po­si­tion signs like these can be seen all over Kent County. The one at the top is lo­cated in front of a farm on state Route 213 south of Kennedyville. At left is a sign in Tolch­ester and the one on the right is in front of a his­toric home in Ch­ester­town.


The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay is seen at the end of Tolch­ester Beach Road. Some Kent County res­i­dents are con­cerned the state may seek to place a new Bay cross­ing at Tolch­ester.


Beach traf­fic like that seen here on U.S. Route 50 in Eas­ton is one of the driv­ers be­hind the study for a new Ch­e­sa­peake Bay cross­ing and a lead­ing con­cern among those of­fer­ing com­ments to the state on where to put another bridge.

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