As opponents mount a new challenge to a high-span bridge across the Severn River, state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer saidthe debate over the bridge's design "might be moot."
Lighthizer said yesterday that the bridge may not be built if the state cannot come up with $8 million to match more than $32 million in federal aid. Without the match, the one-time federal aid will be lost.
"It's doubtful we can come up with the money, but that decision isn't final," Lighthizer said.
The former Anne Arundel County executive said he is negotiating with federal highwayadministrators to relax the matching requirements.
So far, he said, he has had no luck.
Meanwhile, County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, has arranged a May 7 meeting between the State Highway Administration and more than 300 constituents who petitioned her in opposition to the 75-foot-high span.
That span has been proposed as a replacement to thelower-profile Route 450 drawbridge. Critics of the high span fear itwill mar the scenic view around Annapolis and the city's historic ambience.
State officials opted for the span to accommodate boaters and motorists inconvenienced by the drawbridge.
"It's going to change the entire face of Annapolis," Lamb said.
SHA engineers are continuing to put finishing touches on the high span's design. They hope to send it out for construction bids June 24.
"The issue I'm facing is not the design of the bridge, but whether there is going to bea bridge at all," Lighthizer said.
However, lawmakers rejected the Department of Transportation's request for new gasoline taxes and motor vehicle fees last month.
William Ratchford, the legislature'schief fiscal analyst, assured lawmakers this winter that the state would not lose any federal money, including aid for the bridge.