I grew up in Cape St. Claire, and when I was a child, I thought the distance to New York City and the distance to Ocean City were the same because it took the same amount of time to get each. Four hours. That’s how long we would sit in holiday traffic, stewing in our amber station wagon on our sojourn to sea and salt air.
That all changed in 1987, when then Governor William Donald Schaefer announced the Reach the Beach program. This was his crown jewel in what might otherwise be characterized as a rather tempestuous term of office, but no one could argue the positive impact for beachcombers and peninsula dwellers alike.
A lot has changed since 1987, not the least of which is our aging infrastructure. Across the country, cities are questioning the longevity of their bridges, the sustainability of their traffic and the viability of alternatives. Any given Friday, traffic can back up well past the Severn River Bridge, causing frustration and foul language on Route 50, College Parkway, Route 2 and across the whole Broadneck peninsula, impacting commuters who live and work on both sides of the shore and up and down the Route 2 corridor.
Add to the chaos the rapid development of our communities across Anne Arundel County; the lack of investment in any expansion of public transportation; a series of re-decking repairs necessitated by the age of our infrastructure - our community is at a boiling point.
No one is denying that we need relief. However, as a representative of our community, and a resident of the Broadneck peninsula, I have been frustrated by the lack of communication regarding the Bay Bridge re-decking and the Tier 1 expansion. In late August, I voiced that frustration at a meeting with the Maryland State Highway Administration after an article regarding the re-decking closures hit my inbox the same time it hit my constituents’ doorsteps.
I was equally frustrated to discover that although all three of the proposed corridors run through Anne Arundel County, only one open house was scheduled in the county. I voiced this concern and was echoed by our county council, county executive and the entire Anne Arundel County delegation of the Maryland General Assembly. Of course, all meetings are open to anyone, but even as I write this, the bridge is closing to contraflow traffic as the Maryland Transportation Authority prepares for its first open house on the Eastern Shore. Our concerns have been somewhat heard, and a second open house is being scheduled.
With a project this large in scope, cost and time, public input and communication are paramount. I have spent my life teaching communication and teamwork, so I understand the challenges, but we can’t afford to get this wrong. As a representative of this district, it is my job to advocate for our community to make sure we all have the opportunity to have our voices heard. Working in coalition with our various state and county agencies becomes all the more essential, when so many individuals and industries are impacted. I do not know the best solution for reducing traffic on the Broadneck peninsula or the surrounding areas, although I have some ideas, but I do know we won’t get our best options if we limit who gets in the room to be heard. Mark your calendars for October 2, 6:00-8:00pm, at Anne Arundel Community College. Please come share your concerns, opinions and ideas.
If you would like to enter your comments into the public record, you can also do so at www.baycrossingstudy.com.