A tiny bridge carrying Tufton Avenue over Waterspout Run in Worthington Valley has become the latest flash point in the never-ending war to preserve Baltimore County's three rustic central valleys.
Built in 1920, the bridge has badly deteriorated. If it is repaired, its 5-ton weight limit wouldn't accommodate heavy trash trucks or school buses, and further deterioration could still force its being closed.
For Gene L. Neff, chief of public works, the solution is simple: spend $410,000 for a new bridge rather than $6,700 to repair the old one. Money for a new bridge is included in the $47 million bond issue voters will see on the ballot Tuesday.
Margaret Worrall, director of the Valleys Planning Council, a private group working to keep high-density, tract-home development out of the Worthington, Caves and Greenspring valleys, views Mr. Neff's solution as leading to danger.
She fears that the new bridge would provide big trucks a link with the "Outer Beltway," a freeway that has been proposed beyond the Beltway to accommodate traffic brought by future growth. Mr. Neff said the county has no plans to promote such a road.
The valleys lie north of the Beltway, with Interstate 83 on the east and Reisterstown Road on the west.
Preservationists believe a new bridge with no weight limits would mean heavy trucks could drive from Reisterstown to Hunt Valley. The resulting traffic would cause safety problems, which, in turn, could bring pressure for road improvements. That would lead to pressure for rezoning, calls for public water and sewers, and then high-density developments. The end result, they say, would be the destruction of the valleys as they are today.
Mrs. Worrall also questions spending money to build a new bridge, when fixing the old one is much cheaper.
"We can't afford that sort of logic," she said.
Jim Gracie, president of Trout Unlimited's county chapter, said bridge construction could permanently damage Waterspout Run, a natural trout stream.
"This is more of these guys fighting their own master plan," he said.
The county's master plan discourages the idea of an Outer Beltway in favor of concentrating growth in areas already developed.
Mr. Neff dismissed the fears and said freight trucks can simply be banned from using Tufton Avenue to reach Hunt Valley. However, allowing county trash trucks to use the road would save an estimated $50,000 a year, he said. The trucks currently have to make a 25-mile detour to the Beltway and over to I-83.
If the voters approve it Tuesday, the money for the bridge would become available after July 1, 1993.