Bridge Alternative Presented

August 04, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

Rebuilding the existing Route 450 drawbridge or building a new low draw span would cost much less than the planned 80-foot-high Severn River bridge, opponents fighting to stop the high span said in a reportFriday.

The 21-page report estimates it would cost $16 million torebuild the existing span and $26.4 million to erect a new drawbridge nearby, compared with about $40 million for the high bridge.

State officials, however, have refused to reconsider a new design. They say $32 million in federal money from a special bridge fund would be lost unless the state proceeds with the bridge now.

But thereport, by Citizens for the Severn Scenic River Bridge, argues that the less-expensive options would jeopardize much less federal money and predicts that federal money, from a bridge fund or other federal highway funds, would be available later.

In the report, the group lists rebuilding the drawbridge's superstructure as its first preference but acknowledges that the foundation beneath the 67-year-old span may be unsound.

The group calls on state highway officials to moreclosely examine wood pilings by using water jets to remove mud, exposing the wood, or by boring holes through concrete footings and taking samples of the pilings.

Rebuilding a new bridge closely resembling the existing span would reduce damage to the environment by minimizing construction, win widespread public support quickly and retain "the charm and character of the existing structure," the report said.

The existing bridge would close during construction, but could reopen in eight to 10 months if state planners used prefabricated piers that could be attached after existing piers are removed, the report said.

If the bridge's foundation proves unsound, the report recommends, a new low drawbridge should be built just southeast of the existing span. The new bridge should be the

same height, about 22 feet above the water at high tide, and 45 feet wide, the report suggests.

That would provide space for two lanes of traffic, two shoulders and two sidewalks. The bridge should be designed to allow for the addition of five-foot cantilevers on each side to accommodate light rail should it ever extend into Annapolis, the report says.

The channelshould be increased from 75 feet to 90 feet to allow more boats passage, but far fewer than would travel beneath the bridge with the 300-foot channel for the planned high span, the report says.

Earle Freedman, chief bridge engineer for the State Highway Administration, said Friday that he had yet to see the group's report. But he called the existing bridge beyond repair and said it's unrealistic to estimatecosts of a new bridge without specific designs.

Opponents argue that the high span would overwhelm the city's historic skyline, damagethe environment, increase boat traffic on the river, dump high-speedtraffic onto a tiny, two-lane road and ultimately become part of a superhighway system through the city. While state officials say the bridge would carry only two lanes of traffic, opponents believe it would quickly be expanded to four.

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