Aquarium halts razing of footbridge

Fearing possible suit, city tried to demolish Inner Harbor walkway

May 18, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The National Aquarium in Baltimore won an injunction Sunday night to stop what a spokeswoman called a "mysterious" late-night attempt by the city to tear down an Inner Harbor footbridge used by about 300,000 tourists a year.

City officials want to remove the 14-year-old wooden walkway between the aquarium and the Power Plant retail complex because it is not accessible to people in wheelchairs and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, city officials said.

Workers showed up under cover of darkness Sunday because they believed that demolishing the bridge at night would be less disturbing to the public, said Clinton R. Coleman, spokesman for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The city will obey the court order and talk with aquarium officials about what to do next, city officials said.

The aquarium filed a lawsuit against the city Sunday, and at 10: 15 p.m. won a temporary restraining order from Baltimore Circuit Judge Thomas J. S. Waxter Jr.

"The Aquarium, as well as numerous other vendors and businesses surrounding the Inner Harbor, will suffer irreparable financial loss if the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore are not enjoined from removing the bridge," Waxter wrote.

The clash occurred four days after Schmoke proclaimed the Inner Harbor at "peace" because the aquarium and the developer of the adjacent Power Plant restaurants had reached an agreement on expansion plans.

As part of that agreement, the city was to tear down the bridge to make room for a replacement bridge.

The aquarium sued because it wants the city to wait until the aquarium finishes building a $750,000 replacement bridge this summer, said Jill Galloway, spokeswoman for the aquarium.

The new bridge will be accessible to people in wheelchairs and will have a different alignment.

A city inspector concluded six weeks ago that the arched bridge between the aquarium and the Power Plant violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Coleman said. The city law office warned the mayor last week that leaving the bridge up could invite a lawsuit, he said.

The city does not believe removing the bridge will hurt the aquarium because the city last year opened a second bridge between the aquarium and Power Plant pier about 30 yards north of the wooden bridge, Coleman said.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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