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Bay Bridge should be low priority

At the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 2016, Governor Larry Hogan revealed an outline of the states plans for a new bridge span.

Gov. Larry Hogan is backing a proposal for a third bridge to accommodate traffic crossing the Chesapeake Bay and summer travel to Ocean City, an economic boon to the Eastern Shore ("The Bay Bridge problem," Aug. 31). Upward of $7 billion would be spent to improve the travel of 70,000 daily commuters and more during the summer months. This sounds great — except for the opportunity costs to millions of Marylanders.

How many Marylanders waste time crawling along or sitting in backups on the Baltimore Beltway twice each day? How many hours are lost by commuters into and out of downtown Baltimore each day? How many Marylanders avoid heading downtown for dinner or a day trip to the Inner Harbor because of traffic congestion? How many Baltimoreans ride two or three buses and spend several hours commuting to jobs each day? How many businesses won't locate in Baltimore City because of the lack of adequate public transportation?

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I don't enjoy sitting in a backup on my way to or from Ocean City once a year. I particularly don't like traveling on the beltway with many tens of thousands of others in the morning or evening. I avoid those travel hours, but beltway travel has gotten bad even during the afternoon. The Baltimore metropolitan area is a massive East Coast traffic bottleneck.

And let's be real. If Maryland is going to build this third Bay Bridge, it will cost much more than the current estimated $6.85 billion, which doesn't even include the related costs of funnel-road upgrades. Sure, go ahead and conduct the $5 million study of this proposal, but include the costs of the lost opportunities to Maryland. After entering office, Mr. Hogan tossed aside the long-planned and funded Red Line of Baltimore's mass-transit system. That was a long needed public transportation improvement that would have served many thousands each day and alleviated the daily travel time of tens of thousands of others by taking cars off the roads. Infrastructure improvements are needed everywhere but available funds should be prioritized for the greatest needs and benefits.

State Sen. James N. Mathias Jr. wants his grandchild to have the luxury of traveling across the bay on a new bridge. If that happens, his grandson may save an hour crossing the bay to spend half a day creeping five miles along the Baltimore Beltway to his destination.

Austin Barry, Eldersburg

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