In an 11th-hour bid to stop the planned 80-foot-high Severn River Bridge, the Annapolis City Council is taking its battle to Congress, a presidential advisory panel and possibly the courts.

The council decided Monday night to ask Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, and Maryland's two senators to look into whether the state could kill the high bridge without losing $32 million in federal money.

But a spokesman for McMillen offered little hope yesterday that any of the money could be salvaged if the state were to scrap the highbridge.

Under a resolution sponsored by John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, the council also will appeal to the Presidential Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which evaluates the impact of federal projects on national historic sites.

Aldermen said the federal panel reviewed only rough concepts for the bridge in 1984 and based its recommendations on documents that showed the span would likely rise no morethan 65 feet. Now, with the state set to begin building an 80-foot bridge to replace the crumbling Route 450 drawbridge, the panel shouldreview the specific plans, aldermen suggested.

Hammond's resolution authorizes the city to go to court to try to block construction ifthe appeals to members of Congress and the review panel and other efforts fail to sink the high bridge. But Jonathan A. Hodgson, the cityattorney, said he would not pursue legal action before returning to the council for approval.

Hammond said the council turned to the federal government because state lawmakers and transportation officials refused to budge despite widespread opposition.

"There's a real concern on this council that our pleadings have fallen on deaf ears,"he said.

Hammond joined Aldermen Dean L. Johnson, I-Ward 2; Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4; Wayne C. Turner, R-Ward 6; and Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, in voting for the resolution, over the strong objections of Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, who abstained.

Hopkins said the council, which last month became the first elected body to oppose the bridge, has already made its position clear and warned that the city couldn't afford a protracted legal battle.

The mayor said the aldermen's objections to the bridge should be directed to Annapolis representativesin the General Assembly, not federal officials or members of Congress.

Brad Fitch, a spokesman for McMillen, said yesterday that the congressman would not oppose federal funding for the bridge because ofthe risk of losing $32 million.

"Where the bridge goes and how it's built is not really a decision for Congress," Fitch said. "We're not at all optimistic about the bridge being stopped now."

Federal Highway Administrator Thomas D. Larson told McMillen in a letter lastmonth that the state would lose the $32 million unless it proceeds with construction of the planned high bridge, Fitch said.

The City Council's resolution also will have no bearing on Gov. William DonaldSchaefer's refusal to reconsider the high bridge.

"The governor certainly appreciates these expressions of opposition against the bridge, and they haven't fallen on deaf ears," said Page Boinest, a Schaefer spokeswoman. "The governor just feels it's time to go ahead with this bridge now."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad