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High-speed rail would be better than a new Bay Bridge

Harford Community CollegeWalt DisneyElon MuskBARTChesapeake Bay Bridge

Having had the opportunity to attend the recent Maryland Climate Change Summit, it was both enlightening and reassuring that our governor, the legislature and our state agencies are taking proactive positions in planning for what cannot be stopped and a leadership role in reducing what is driving temperature increases so that future impacts may be constrained, primarily those of sea level rise and flooding.

With 3,200 miles of bay and ocean coastline, Maryland has already lost 13 islands, and as sea levels continue to rise, we will lose thousands more low lying acres over the next decade, including marshes, forests, farms and developed land.

That afternoon, traffic reports indicated that vehicles were already backed up at the Bay Bridge for the weekend run to the beach, and I was reminded of the May 26 article in The Sun, describing concerns of the current bridges' safety, costs and life expectancy. By 2025, increases of more than 40,00 Saturday, and 16,000 daily vehicles are expected. I couldn't help but envision all of those cars backed up at the tolls, spewing the very carbon dioxide responsible for most of the warming and resultant sea level rise that we are currently experiencing.

Many Eastern Shore residents are rightfully concerned about the developmental impact that would occur if a new bridge span were constructed, as some feel the need for.

It seems time to decouple ourselves from paradigms of the past. Decades ago, Walt Disney built a futuristic monorail as a demonstration of how people can be rapidly, comfortably and efficiently whisked to their destinations. Though the monorail has not been emulated in our cities, transit systems such as BART in San Francisco, the TriMet System in Portland, and totally computerized trains in places like Copenhagen are great examples of modern transit. The Baltimore light rail/metro system, is gradually moving toward regional continuity.

Might it not be time to establish a high speed transit link between the Western Shore and beach destinations that would eliminate excessive traffic, reduce gas consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, and save time, energy and frayed nerves? You could arrive at the shore refreshed, relaxed and ready to enjoy! Those who wish could still use the existing spans. It would be a win/win situation for both commuters and the businesses at the shore, increasing visits, both during the summer and through the rest of the year. The pressure would be off the road system, eliminating the need to pave more impervious surfaces and create more runoff. It is possible that in many places, existing rights-of-way could be used.

Visionary ideas drive innovation and can solve vexing problems. Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, is purported to be planning an ultra high speed, hyperloop rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Perhaps we could lure him to Maryland to develop a short-range prototype between our Eastern and Western Shores. If that is not an optimum application for the technology, there are many other manufacturers that could step up to the challenge.

Stan Kollar, Harford County

The writer is a biology professor at Harford Community College, where he developed the Environmental Technology Program.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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