It may just be water under the bridge at this point, but a citizens group released a poll yesterday saying that Annapolis-area residents favor a low-level span over the Severn River by a margin of almost 2-to-1.
Results of the unscientific poll of 401 residents, conductedby Citizens for the Scenic Severn River, said 51 percent of area residents favored a low bridge as a replacement for the aging span adjacent to the Naval Academy.
The high bridge was favored by 26 percent, the poll said.
The figures were released just as CSSRB, and lawyers for the city of Annapolis were preparing for a hearing this afternoon in Baltimore's U.S.District Court.
Judge Joseph C. Howard has been asked to decide whether state and federal highway officials touched all the legal bases needed to replace the 67-year-old drawbridge with an 80-foot-high replacement. A federal injunction is the last realistic chance to haltconstruction on the high bridge, scheduled to begin after Dec. 2.
Attorney Thomas McCarthy, of the citizens group, admitted that the poll is not likely to influence Howard. But it does demonstrate, he said, that if the State Highway Administration had held adequate publichearings they wouldn't have come up with an 80-foot design.
"Everyone's known instinctively that the majority opposes the high span. This poll has laid to rest some of the ridiculous arguments that thereis a silent majority in favor of the high span," McCarthy said. He singled out State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff and Sen. Gerald Winegrad, D-Annapolis, as two public figures who have misread public sentiment on the bridge.
But Winegrad was unrepentant.
"I don't know whether you should build a bridge based on polls," Winegrad said."I would say 51 percent is not a resounding majority anyway."
About one in five of the respondents to the telephone poll said they hadno opinion on the question. Two respondents favored other solutions,CSSRB spokesman Bryan Miller said.
If CSSRB and the City of Annapolis win their case, Winegrad predicted, it will take 10 years to convince state government to replace the bridge. SHA engineers estimate that the deteriorating bridge will need to be closed by 1994.
He attacked the ad hoc citizen's group and the city of Annapolis forraising and pandering to public ire on the issue.
"Do we oppose this and jeopardize our chances of having a new bridge for 10 years?" he asked. "I am not a supporter of a high bridge; I supported building a bridge whose design was chosen by consensus over eight years. Suddenly we get this reaction characterizing it as the 10,000-pound eggplant that ate Annapolis."
To replace the old Severn River Bridge, which would you prefer?
.. . . .. ... . . .. .... .. . . .... Number. .. . ...%
A modern low-level span.. . . . . . . .. 207.. . . ... 51%
The proposed 80-foot span. . . . . . . .. .105. . .. . .. 26%
No opinion/other. . . . .. .. . ... ....... 89. . . .. .. 22%
How strong is your opinion?
. . .. . . . . Strongly. . .. . .. .. .. Moderately. . .. Might Change/
. .. . .. . . .. Held.... . .. .. .. .. Held.. .. .. .. .No Answer
proponents. . . . . .. 55%. . . .. ...... 36%. . ... ... 8.7%
proponents. . . . .... 59%. . . .. . .... 25%. . . .. .. 16%
HOW THE POLL WAS DONE: The phone numbers of 1,700 residents in the greater Annapolis/Arnold area were selected from the C & P Annapolis/Prince Frederick phone book and contacted by Citizens for the Scenic Severn River Bridge volunteers on Oct. 28, Oct. 29 and Nov. 19. Of the 1,700 residents, 401 were contacted.