A recent study by a transportation consultant questioned the need for a third Bay Bridge span, citing inaccurate traffic projections used by the Maryland Transportation Authority in justifying an additional Bay crossing.
While the state foresaw the need for a new bridge by 2040, the consultant’s study calls not for another span, but massive overhaul of the existing East-West traffic connectors after 2065.
The all-consuming Covid-19 may skew traffic patterns in a way that no one anticipated nearly a year ago: telecommuting may become a permanent part of the workplace, not just a reaction to the lockdown of offices driven by the real prospect of spreading a sometime deadly virus through personal contact.
My journalistic output on this subject even surprises me. Tenacity is one thing, redundancy another. However, this writer strongly believes that the state should cease its understandable preoccupation with vehicular travel and look seriously at rapid transit, despite its cost.
The independence and convenience provided by a car, not to speak of storage capacity, is undeniable. Nonetheless, I suggest that transportation planners focus on a third span devoted entirely to electric transportation.
Annapolis decision-makers should cease its lunge toward building another span for cars and figure how they could design a rapid transit solution that would preserve the Eastern Shore as a precious part of Maryland—one protected from automobile congestion and pollution and preserved for farming, open space, rural life and peace of mind uncluttered by urban stimuli.
Stop the headlong momentum toward a third span festooned with cars carrying families and surfboards to Maryland and Delaware beaches. Stop the threat to the Delmarva Peninsula and its highly desirable quality of life. Stop the inevitable encroachment of urban development.
Is it understandable why thousands and thousands of families seek the fun and frolic of Ocean City, Fenwick Island Rehoboth? Of course, it makes sense—and money for merchants and state coffers. But transportation experts can examine other options, albeit expensive ones, that might carry beachgoers by faster modes.
And clean the air. And save valuable farmland from the acre-eater growth of houses, shopping centers and roads.
Maybe Covid-19, relegating all of us to relative isolation and our own hitherto unexamined thoughts, might effectively compel policy- makers to slow down and smell the wondrous odor of mental relaxation.
Who has not enjoyed nature walks, bike rides and meandering car trips to areas and wildlife refuges previously overlooked, if not ignored?
Recently I listened as a friend described how he and his wife, 17-year residents of Talbot County, have enjoyed some of their constricted time traveling by car in replicating recommended walking tours. They have spent dashboard time discovering areas previously unknown to them.
I marveled at how excited this friend seemed at taking advantage of enforced seclusion. He savored the natural assets of the Eastern Shore. I have heard the same from friends about visits to Wye Island in Queen Anne’s County and Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County.
Though my words may betray me, I am no single-focus environmentalist. I am, however, obsessed with preserving the goodness of rural, small-town life on the Eastern Shore.
A third Bay Bridge enabling thousands and thousands of cars and vacation-hungry families would destroy a way of life that screams to be sustained and valued.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.