Hayden, in reversal, decides to replace controversial bridge

November 03, 1994|By Pat Gilbert | Pat Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County plans to replace a bridge on Buckingham Road that has been a source of antagonism among Pikesville-area neighborhoods for more than two years.

The decision by County Executive Roger B. Hayden reverses one he made in September 1992 when he said he would not replace the bridge for financial reasons and for lack of consensus among surrounding neighborhoods on what to do.

The one-lane bridge, which spanned Gwynns Falls between the Reisterstown and Liberty road corridors, has been closed since April 1992 after a school bus violated the 5-ton weight limit and caused a portion of the structure to collapse. Mr. Hayden now proposes to replace the narrow bridge with a two-lane bridge for traffic safety reasons.

Residents in the Milford neighborhood want the bridge replaced with another one-lane span or not at all. Since the bridge has been out, residents say their community has been

quieter and their children safer because of less traffic.

Residents in Villa Nova, Willow Glen, Sudbrook Park and other nearby communities contend the lack of a bridge makes it harder to reach Liberty Road. They also say it affects police and fire protection and hinders Citizens On Patrol programs.

Mr. Hayden said he decided to go ahead with the replacement after meeting with proponents of a new bridge in August and receiving hundreds of petitions in support.

But Mr. Hayden's decision left people on both sides angry. A sign on a barricade at the site reads, "Roger B. Hayden Memorial Bridge."

"He promised us not take any action on the bridge without first consulting us," said Kenneth St. Ours, a community leader in Milford.

Mr. St. Ours said Milford residents didn't hear about the plans to proceed with the bridge until September -- just before Mr. Hayden was to hold one of his regular face-to-face community meetings.

Milford residents voiced their strong opposition to a two-lane bridge at the September meeting, Mr. St. Ours said, "yet the county is ignoring our position."

And, after his meeting with bridge proponents, Mr. Hayden failed to get back to them with a decision as promised, said Rosalie M. Poole, a community leader in Villa Nova.

"His office gave us the runaround for weeks," said Mrs. Poole. "When we did get information it was conflicting. We're still not sure of where things are with the project."

Mr. Hayden said he has not replied because he is awaiting information from county officials before returning to walk through the bridge site again with the residents.

"It's just a matter of getting all the i's dotted and the t's crossed," he said.

The county must obtain permit approval from the state Department of Natural Resources, the state Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers because construction would involve a waterway.

Initially, the county proceeded with a letter of agreement which involved the bridge and several minor projects. But when the Milford Improvement Association requested a public hearing on the bridge project, DNR officials said the county had to go in another direction.

"Because there is such a division of opinion on this project, we told the county it would have to apply for an individual permit for this project," said Ali A. Mir, chief of DNR's nontidal wetlands and waterway division.

A hearing has not been set.

Thomas H. Hamer, acting director of the Department of Public Works, said the engineering design work is complete and funds for the construction could be obtained from an emergency capital improvements account. Mr. Hamer said the county is awaiting the public hearing before it can continue.

The cost would be around $100,000, he said. That would in clude new concrete beams and new decking. The existing bridge abutments would be used.

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