Public May Voice Concerns About Bridge At Meeting

September 23, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

Annapolis residents will get a chance tonight to tell the City Council whether they want the city to proceed with its lawsuit to block the planned bridge over the Severn River.

The city filed its federallawsuit last week, challenging the state's plans to build the 80-foot-high, $40 million replacement for the old Route 450 drawbridge.

Earlier this month, aldermen voted, 7-2, to sue and authorized the city to spend up to $20,000 for the legal battle. Two private Annapolis lawyers, Bryson F. Popham and Richard T. Colaresi, have agreed to represent the city at no cost.

But tonight, one of the alderman who voted in favor of the suit, Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, plans to ask the council to consider withdrawing it.

Snowden questioned whether a majority of city taxpayers would support the suit and expressedconcern that a judge could force the city to post a $32 million bond-- the amount of federal highway funds state officials say Maryland would lose unless it proceeds with the project.

Snowden also suggested the city's suit may be unnecessary because a private group, Citizens for the Scenic Severn River Bridge Inc., has filed a separate federal lawsuit to fight the bridge.

Predicting a large turnout at tonight's meeting, Snowden said, "This will settle once and for all the question of how willing the public is to go forward with this lawsuit.

"We'll find out whether there is a vocal minority who want this lawsuit or if it's really a majority of the taxpayers."

The city's lawsuit contends highway planners violated stateand federal law byfailing to conduct adequate required reviews of the project's impacton the environment, the city's historic district and traffic.

Theplaintiffs, listed as the city and a private citizen who lives in the historic district, ask a federal judge to stop planning, financing,contracting, construction and land-acquisition for the 80-foot-high span, which would replace the decaying, 67-year-old drawbridge.

State officials, however, say the high crossing complies with all necessary state and federal laws.

Late last week, the bridge moved a step closer toward receiving final state approval when a state hearing officer and a reviewer for the Department of Natural Resources concluded the project meets necessary standards.

The findings now go to the state Board of Public Works -- consisting of the governor, the comptroller and the treasurer -- for final approval.

State officialsplan to sign off on contracts to build the bridge by November, and construction is scheduled to begin next year.

Tonight's City Council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 at City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street.

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