Our community is struggling with concerns about the State Highway Administration's (SHA) planning process and about its intentions to construct an eastern bypass.
I am adamantly opposed to an eastern bypass and I have spoken out against this proposal.
In June of 1990 I sent a letter to SHA outlining my concerns regarding the tremendous disruption that this kind of development would have on communities throughout Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore, and Southern Maryland.
This project would have long-term negative effects on the Chesapeake Bay, including deterioration of water quality. An eastern bypass would mean a loss of open space and habitat, traffic congestion, greatly increased air pollution, and more suburban sprawl.
While I remain firmly opposed to the bypass, it is ultimately the responsibility of the State government and SHA to develop highway plans.
However, there is a growing level of concern and distrust about the SHA's position in relation to its actual construction activities which need to be addressed.
As a member of Congress I have taken on the responsibility of listening to the issues raised by my constituents, and I have heard loud and clear the concerns about the eastern bypass.
This past summer, a group of my constituents came to Washington and made an informative presentation on how, through existing highway projects, the state is building a defacto eastern bypass route. Quite honestly, I though they made a strong argument.
Since that meeting, I have contacted Sen. Sarbanes and requested an opportunity for these citizens to make their presentation before the entire Maryland congressional delegation.
In addition, my office has contacted Gov. William Donald Schaefer's office and requested an update on all projects passing through the Anne Arundel County area.
While I am aware that the state strongly denies that a bypass is being built, it is my belief that the SHA owes a fuller explanation to the citizens of Maryland on the rationale behind current construction and expansion projects.
It is my view, as a congressman and resident of Anne Arundel County, that the state should hold a public hearing to inform the public of its current plans and its intentions regarding an eastern bypass.
These hearings would go a long way toward rebuilding the trust that has deteriorated between the SHA and local residents.
It would also invigorate the necessary public awareness and participation that is needed in highway planning. This ongoing struggle over the eastern bypass clearly displays the needs for more public participation in highway planning.
Let me restate that I share the concerns raised about the eastern bypass, and I do not want to see a superhighway truck route cutting through the heart of my community and my home.
Hearings sponsored by the SHA would begin the process of resolving this ongoing dispute, would increase public awareness and participation in highway planning, and would allow us to regain the necessary state/local cooperation needed for solid transportation planning.
Tom McMillen (D) is the represents Maryland's 4th Congressional District.