Bridge Creates Gulf Between Sha, City

June 12, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

Pictures of a sleek bridge rising 80 feet over the Severn River flashed on the screen at the front of the room.

A narrator extolled what will become the newest gateway to Annapolis, the product of the first American bridge-design competition in a century. The new bridge, he said, would provide a graceful eastern entrance to the city, blending well with the Naval Academy and the historic district.

Then the screen went blank, and the men from the State Highway Administration quietly walked out of the Annapolis City Council chambers Monday night, leaving behind a less-than-receptive audience.

Indeed, the estimated 75 people who filled the chambers, along with mostof the city's aldermen, called the planned bridge an eyesore that would irreparably harm the environment, ruin the picturesque skyline and dump high-speed traffic into the narrow streets of the historic district.

After opponents delivered a petition signed by more than 2,000 residents demanding that the SHA design a smaller span, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the 80-foot bridge.

"We're tired of being trampled and being desecrated by the state and by the county," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8.

Despite repeated SHA warnings that the state would lose more than $32 million in federal money for the $40 million bridge if it were redesigned,Moyer and other aldermen said the city should go to court, if necessary, to stop the planned bridge.

"I don't think we can put a pricetag on tacky and ugly," said Terry DeGraff, the Ward 7 Republican. "It's just ugly, and it doesn't suit the needs of this city."

The resolution, sponsored by Dean Johnson, I-Ward 2, recommended no specific height or bridge design. It asks that the SHA select a "less-intrusive design," in keeping with the "scale and impression" of the current 35-foot-high Route 450 drawbridge.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, suggested the resolution alone would carry little weight and proposed amending it to authorize the city to go to court to fight the design.

The council rejected the proposed amendment, however, saying the city could file a lawsuit any time and that the resolution would suffice to convey the city's position in no uncertain terms.

Moyer also said the council should try lobbying state and county officials and lawmakers before considering legal action. She said she plans to set a meeting with state legislators who represent the Annapolis area.

A few alderman, while voting for the resolution opposing the bridge, cautioned that the fight could prove costly.

"By our actions tonight, the city is getting involved in a potential Goliath situation," said Ruth Gray, R-Ward 4.

"I hope to God these 2,000 people here have some deep pockets because, I tell you, right now the City of Annapolis doesn't."

SHA officials say reopening public hearings on the bridge would cause them to miss an August deadline to comeup with $8 million in state money or risk losing the $32 million from the federal government. Construction on the new span is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by 1994.

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