Opponents of the high span for the Severn River Bridge dodged a bullet Tuesday when two resolutions favoring an 80-foot-high Route 450 bridge over the river failed at the monthly meeting of the Greater Severna Park Council.
A motion favoring the high span failed by a voteof 10 to 13, with three delegates abstaining and seven not casting votes. A two-thirds majority of voting delegates is required for the council to take a formal position.
"There was an awful lot of information, and there are still questions in people's minds," GSPC president Pat Troy said. "There were groups that favored the proposal, groups who opposed it and a group that didn't think we should take a position. You add that all together, and you don't get a clear direction. That's what the vote reflected."
Troy cited as significant the council's unanimous rejection of a strongly worded position favoring the high span proposed by legislation chairman Albert Johnston. Johnston's written motion, prepared before the meeting, ridiculed opponents of the high span as a "very late and untimely group of second-guessers."
The votes were taken afterlengthy slide-show presentations;
one favoring the high span fromState Highway Administration bridge engineer Earle S. Freedman and one opposing it from Annapolis architect Tom Davies.
Freedman explained that the state's now-disputed decision to consider only high-span options to replace the 67-year-old, 12-foot drawbridge came after aMay 1984 public hearing, where 10 speakers favored building a span high enough to eliminate the need for a drawbridge.
The Coast Guardasked that the bridge be 80 feet high, he said, to accommodate all boats that use the Severn.
Much of Freedman's presentation, prepared by the SHA planning department, focused on the need to replace the failing span, which recently rated a 4 on a federal bridge adequacy rating scale of 100.
Davies dismissed Freedman's account of the May1984 meeting, noting that only 10 people had indicated support for the high span, while 18 had spoken in favor of other options -- mainlya prohibitively expensive tunnel option.
Most of Davies' presentation blasted the proposed bridge -- with its 42-foot cement pilings and 24-foot elevated berms through Jonas Green Park -- as architecturally and environmentally incompatible with the historic area.
The council reacted sympathetically to Davies' arguments, delivering a solid round of applause at the conclusion of his presentation.
But inthe end, it was obvious that the council wouldn't be able to take a strong position either for or against the bridge. In a hectic and heated question-and-answer period, some delegates said they feared the state would lose a $32 million federal bridge replacement grant and jeopardize any kind of reconstruction if current plans are scrapped. Others were dissatisfied with the delays and dangers faced by boaters waiting for the drawbridge to open.
A large faction also claimed that the issue is none of Severna Park's business.
"This is outside of the Greater Severna Park Council's geographical zone, whose southern boundary is Joyce Lane," said zoning chair James E. Gutman, who lead the abstention faction.
"When it comes to the Severna Park Council, there is such a thing as our own backyards where it's appropriate for us to take positions -- and this is not it."
Davies said opponents of the high span are looking at engineering information and plan to introduce a low-span counterproposal of their own later this week.