Editor: I was both surprised and pleased to read your editorial, "Spikerush: $70,000 a Stalk," in the Feb. 3 edition of The Sun. The acknowledgment that there should be some ratio of benefits to costs on environmental matters is refreshing. If The Sun is truly concerned about cost effectiveness as it relates to environmental issues, then it should report on the costs and benefits of the state's environmental policies.
Specifically, the benefits of the Department of Natural Resources upland wetland program and the Department of the Environment sediment and erosion control program, which have caused millions of dollars to be spent by the State Highway Administration with very questionable results.
An example of the increased cost is the upcoming Route 100 extension where upland wetland concerns will add $25 million to the cost of construction if Natural Resources and its federal counterparts prevail on the upland wetland issues. This added cost will be caused by increased bridge lengths. This means the state will pay this cost in initial construction and in 25 years when the bridge decks must be rehabilitated, it will pay again.
A second example of a cost increase is the I-195 bridge over the Patapsco River, which had to be lengthened for environmental reasons after the initial causeway was constructed and an abutment built. The increased cost of the bridge over a paved causeway was in excess of $5 million and once again in 25 years this cost will have to be paid again.
Compliance with Department of Environment sediment and erosion control programs does not yield such dramatic costs. On projects that my firm has completed there is a 10- to 50-percent waste of money expended on Environment's requirements for each project. My experiences are typical of the construction industry and I would estimate that more than $5 million per year is being spent unwisely on State Highway Administration projects.
Certainly this situation should be analyzed in the same manner that The Sun suggests the Spikerush should have been. If this review reveals that there is a large amount of waste in these programs, there should be reforms made. At the very least, the money wasted should be spent on environmental projects such as the shore erosion control program, which does provide value for each dollar spent.
David C. Bramble.
Fascinated and Taken Aback
Editor: Having a teenage son who used to be a knock'em dead defenseman on his lacrosse team and a football player who happily dealt with mayhem on the field as just one more afternoon adventure, I am fascinated and somewhat taken aback when I see him joining the anti-war movement and marching for peace.
I voted for Reagan (I still like what he tried to do both economically and internationally). We have always been a hang-out-the-flag, my-country-above-all type of family. But now I am forced to read a little more widely, think a little more deeply in an effort to understand where this much-loved but somewhat foreign being at my table is coming from.
These kids (and their adult compatriots) are remarkably well-informed. They know what the Iraqi atrocities have been; they also know the Kuwaiti history (and its depravities).
They know what economic sanctions were being used before war was declared and how they were working. They know how much the war is costing the taxpayers. They know statistics, troop movements, problems that soldiers and civilians on both sides are encountering. They are not ignorant.
I have heard these protesters called knee-jerk liberals, punks and professional agitators. They are not.
They have been lumped together with demonstrators of all types: gay rights activists, environmentalist nuts, non-nukers, etc. They have been called creeps, wimps, cowards and worse. They have been called anti-American for not approving of our invasion of Iraq.
And that is the crux of my concern: that one group is telling another what it takes to be a good American.
To protest the war does not mean either a lack of courage or a lack of concern for the troops who are in combat.
John Wayne is not the only patriot we can claim.
Anne L. Stone.
Editor: We in the Maryland Income Tax Division have a mission statement which promises among other things to treat all taxpayers with respect and understanding. How can the top man in the state write and say such despicable things to his constituents? I am appalled at his gutter language!
I do not speak for anyone other than myself when I say his statements are an embarrassment to me as a representative of our state.
I urge Marylanders not to judge all state employees by words and actions of our top official.
On the Brink
Editor: Cal Thomas, in "Nukes in the Gulf," published on The Sun's Feb. 6 Opinion * Commentary page, promoted the use of tactical nuclear weapons to bring the gulf war "to a speedy conclusion."
By today's standards the Hiroshima bomb could be a tactical weapon. What size does Mr. Thomas recommend? How many such weapons to release how much radiation to add to the burden already present in living things from the A-bomb explosions, the atmospheric nuclear tests of the past, the Chernobyl disaster, the emissions from nuclear power plants?
What political costs is he willing to pay to break the barrier that exists between conventional and nuclear weapons? What increase in anti-Americanism around the world? Surely, to even contemplate using nuclear weapons is to stand on the edge of an abyss. That temptation is reason enough to stop the war.
June S. Wing.
Where the Highway Administration Can Go
Editor: Word has it that unless the State Highway Administration (SHA) gets more spacious quarters in an addition to the B&O; warehouse at the new stadium site, the behemoth state agency will flee the city.
This argument sounds remarkably familiar. It wasn't long ago that the Orioles front office successfully advanced a similar argument to a city and governor still smarting from the loss of their beloved football team to Indianapolis. This time, however, it is the state, with its 1,200 highway administration employees, that is resorting to the kind of extortion that led to the construction of a new downtown ballpark.
Now that construction of the new ballpark is under way, however, it is clear, at least from the city's viewpoint, that Baltimore stands to gain tremendously from what Edward Gunts calls "the best building under construction in the city . . . a national model for a new, more sensitive approach to stadium design in urban areas." Though the cost was steep, the Stadium Authority and city planners set the framework for a first class design, while at the same time managing to relocate within the city limits every business being displaced by the stadium's construction.
Why then is such a superior design being jeopardized by a poorly conceived and unattractive building extension when there are so many other viable downtown locations for the SHA? Simply from a design perspective, Mr. Gunts correctly questions the wisdom of altering the historic B&O; warehouse, pointing out that the "protrusion" runs counter to many of the original principals that led to the stadium's highly praised design.
Even assuming that the addition is architecturally successful, one must question the wisdom of locating a major state agency on what promises to be one of the most coveted real estate parcels in the city. Furthermore, it is preposterous to assert that moving a state agency, exempt from local and estate taxes, to Camden Yards will defray the costs of renovating the warehouse in time for opening day. Explain how an additional $18 million in capital expenditures transferred from one state account to another can help defray the cost of a $100 million project.
Finally, and perhaps most important, city planners in recent years have been targeting the Howard Street corridor as a center for government and institutional development. Relocating the SHA in this area of town would go a long way in achieving his goal.
Architects, planners, preservationists, Howard Street merchants and especially city taxpayers should strongly oppose the highway administration's proposal.
One wonders, where would the SHA go if the Stadium Authority rejected its proposed move to Camden Yards?