Commission Disputes Bridge Design Process

July 14, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

The Severn River Commission has challenged the procedure used to design a proposed 80-foot-high Severn River bridge.

Growing, last-minute opposition to a high-span replacement of the failing Route 450 drawbridge prompted commission members Thursday to propose a review of the eight-year design process.

"We're not saying we like this design better than that one," saidchairman A. L. "Red" Waldron. "We're asking, 'how did we get to a position where so many people are opposed to the design that was selected?' "

State Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer announced last week that the state would go ahead with the $40 million bridgedespite resolutions that passed the Anne Arundel County and the Annapolis City councils.

Commission member Douglas Hollman is draftinga letter to state transportation and elected officials, proposing a review of the design process in which the only public hearings were conducted in 1983 and 1984.

Sentiment at those hearings appeared tofavor a high bridge to eliminate traffic backups at the drawbridge and allow more boats into the river. Opponents today say they fear thehigh bridge will mar the city's historic vista, inviting more boats and automobile traffic.

"We're not taking sides," Waldron said. "It's too far along for that really. It looks like the people who buildthe bridges have made up their minds.

"Our quarrel is with the process that allowed it to go this way. There are a number of federal and state laws that don't look like they were all met. We're not listing specifics now, but there look like a number of areas weren't handled properly."

The commission has no objections with the design competition or the 14-member jury that selected the winner in May 1990, Waldron said.

Waldron was a member of that jury.

"That was an honest attempt on the part of the State Highway Administration to do it right," said Waldron, the lone vote against the eventual winner.

If there was a flaw in the jury process, it was that jury members had only five designs, each 80-feet high from which to chose, Waldron said.

"But (state officials) were preceding from the basic idea from that meeting in 1983 or 1984 that people were clamoring for a high bridge," Waldron said.

"It was a straight-forward process that wastrying to do something.

"I guess the question is, was it trying to do the right thing?"

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