Academy Bridge wins federal design award


The controversial bridge over the Severn River, the one whose design and construction angered many neighbors, is now an award winner.

First the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it an award for outstanding civil engineering achievement. On Friday, the National Endowment for the Arts gave it an award for federal design achievement.

"How nice," Virginia Strange, a fierce opponent to the construction project, said sarcastically. "I guess their awards are founded on beauty, not suitability."

The Ferry Farms resident was among those opponents who lost a lawsuit asking county officials to stop construction of the bridge until the environmental impact could be fully studied.

Mrs. Strange said construction has harmed wildlife.

"We used to get lots of birds, wildlife. Even a turtle -- a 50-pound turtle -- would come up and lay eggs in my yard," she said. "We haven't seen her in the last few years. The quail, we don't see them anymore since construction started."

The $34 million span, finished in February, was christened the U.S. Naval Academy Bridge last fall. In a graceful S-shape, the 2,835-foot span takes Route 450 over the Severn, from near Jonas Green State Park to the Naval Academy. In contrast to the low and crumbling drawbridge it replaced, the new span has a 75-foot clearance for boats.

"It is a very picturesque bridge from an engineering standpoint. I know there are some people who wouldn't agree with that," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman.

Opponents complain that the new bridge doesn't give a decent view of the Chesapeake Bay and that its size is out of character with nearby neighborhoods.

"It is not the same people-friendly bridge it once was. That is gone forever," said opponent James Martin.

"I am not critical of them giving it an award. I am sure there are uglier bridges in the state," he said.

The design was done by Greiner Inc. A jury of engineers, architects, historians and community representatives chose the Towson engineering firm from 21 entries.

"It's a great honor," engineer William A. O'Connor, one of the designers, said of the awards. "It's a nice-looking bridge."

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