Neighbors oppose new bridge lights


The golden flume of light that the State Highway Administration has planned to illuminate the new Route 450 bridge across the Severn River may never see the light of day.

Neighboring residents who recently learned about plans to decorate the bridge with 100 100-watt, high-pressure sodium flood lamps below the concrete decking are asking the SHA to pull the plug on the $163,000 lighting project.

Residents from Ferry Farms, Pendennis Mount, West Annapolis, Wardour and Spa Creek met last night with SHA engineers, the bridge designers and the electrical contractors, who already have begun installing the light fixtures at the base of the bridge, to lodge their objections.

"The idea of drawing attention to it when a lot of people wished it wasn't there at all is kind of grating," said Molly Smith, president of the West Annapolis Civic Association.

"Basically, they want to light up a bridge that is already ugly and make us look at it 24 hours a day," said James Martin, president of the Severn River Association, an umbrella group for neighborhoods throughout the watershed.

Arthur Zoellner of Pendennis Mount said he and his neighbors are concerned that the glow from the bridge will become a nuisance. "We'd like to see the stars once in a while," he said.

Tom Jenkins, whose Towson-based firm, Greiner Inc., won an unusual, state-sponsored architectural contest to design the $33 million project, said the decorative lights were part of that design.

He said the flood lamps, which would be fixed to the concrete piers supporting the bridge and hung beneath the decking, would "define the geometry of the bridge as it crosses the river" and "create an interplay of light and shadow that will give the bridge an interesting appearance."

The lights, which would be similar to those on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, would turn on automatically at dusk and off at dawn, said Don Baker, who also is with Greiner.

Ernie Hodshon, assistant district engineer for the SHA, said only SHA Administrator Hal Kassoff or chief bridge engineer Jock Friedman could cancel the lights, which in addition to construction would cost about $160 a month to operate.

But Mr. Hodshon assured the residents that "no matter what happens, there is an off-switch."

State Del. Michael Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, asked the residents to forward letters from their neighborhood associations expressing opposition or support for the bridge to the District 30 delegation.

"To me, less is more," said Del. Phillip Bissett, a Mayo Republican whose district includes Annapolis. "Who said we needed all this pretty stuff anyway."

The new, 75-foot tall span, which is replacing the much smaller, 69-year-old drawbridge, has been controversial since its design was selected on May 8, 1990, from among 21 entries.

The 2,800-foot-long span is scheduled to be completed in June.


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