In the week since some Annapolis residents celebrated the closing of the bridge over Spa Creek by creating the fictional Maritime Republic of Eastport, their cheers have turned to belly-aching groans over the traffic snarls that have resulted.
With the link between Eastport and the downtown historic district under repair for another two weeks, the 13,000 motorists who used the bridge daily have been clogging Bay Ridge Avenue, Forest Drive and Spa Road and creating a gridlock nightmare.
"I've been sitting in a helicopter watching this whole thing, and it just looks like a wave of traffic hitting the city from Washington and Baltimore around 5 p.m.," said Sgt. Philip Turner, a special events coordinator for the city Police Department. "We started with a gridlock early on, and now we're down to a rolling backup. Thank goodness this was only a three-week deal."
The repair work -- replacing worn pieces of the two-lane bridge -- has added 20 minutes to the drive from Eastport to downtown.
Forest Drive, already jammed with traffic and under repair, has gotten worse.
Drivers who use Duke of Gloucester Street on the downtown side expecting to cross the bridge have turned back up the one-way street.
To cope, city transportation officials have added buses. Water taxis are available to pedestrians who want to cross the creek, but that service ends at 11 p.m. Fridays and 10 p.m. Saturdays and the rest of the week.
Officials have also created new traffic patterns, for example, forbidding left turns from side streets to Spa Road, during repairs. Residents say they have had to adjust their travel times to avoid rush hours.
At least a dozen police officers from the city and Anne Arundel County are helping to direct traffic during rush hour.
Even with that, the "traffic is a whole lot worse than people expected," said Gilbert Renaut, president of Ward One Residents Association, who estimates an extra 20 minutes have been added to his bus ride from his job in Washington to home.
The inconvenience also is being felt in people's pockets.
A cab trip from Eastport to Main Street before the bridge closure cost from $2.80 to $3. Now, the cost is somewhere between $5.60 and $6.00.
"It's not so much that the route is longer, it's just that the traffic is so backed up that you just wait and wait and wait," said Mike Holland, manager of the Yellow Checker Cab Co. Inc. on Riverview Avenue. "We're not catching a lot of heck for the cab fare, but more for the length of time it takes for us to get to people.
"It hasn't hurt the drivers because they're making more money," Holland said. "But it's hurting Joe Blow public."
Turner believes the congestion will ease once motorists get used to the new driving patterns, and the timing for traffic signals is adjusted to deal with the flow. Besides, the bridge work will be done in two weeks.
"It's going to improve, really," he said.
Pub Date: 2/02/98