Bridge repair set to begin

City promotes water taxis during work at Spa Creek

Boat trips will be free in a.m.

Span is being reduced to one lane for roadwork

August 29, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

The first time Spa Creek Bridge closed for repairs, in 1998, Annapolis suffered a serious case of gridlock and Eastport staged a mock secession from the city.

This time, city officials promise that improvements to the 58-year-old bridge will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience.

Beginning tomorrow, the State Highway Administration will restrict traffic on the two-lane span to one lane as workers repair its worn surface. A sidewalk will also remain open. (In 1998, the entire bridge was closed for three weeks.)

The construction will continue through the end of November, breaking only for the annual boat shows, which will be held from Oct. 2 to 20.

The $920,000 repair work will make the bridge's concrete deck more even.

Because city officials expect the construction to cause some delays, they are offering commuters an alternative: travel to work on water.

From Monday to Sept. 10, the city is funding complimentary trips on the Watermark Cruise water taxi. The service will be offered weekdays between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to any Spa Creek stop.

The city hopes the free service will generate enough interest in the water taxi for Watermark to continue the extended hours of operation - service usually begins at 9:30 a.m. - and attract more regular commuters.

"It's a test case, and we hope it's popular," said Danielle Matland, the city's transportation director. "Narrowing Spa Bridge will reduce its capacity, so now it's a good time for people to think about alternatives."

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said she has long been interested in drawing commuters to the city's waterways, and is considering broadening the water taxi's route to ease traffic on thoroughfares such as Spa Creek Bridge, which carries about 3,000 vehicles a day.

Moyer, who took the water taxi to work when the bridge closed in 1998, called it an attractive option to sitting in traffic.

"You start off your day feeling much more relaxed," Moyer said. "It's definitely something I'd take more often if it were offered on a regular basis."

An increase in water taxi commuters would also reduce pollution on clogged roadways.

"I think it's a very ecologically friendly way to commute to work," said Joyce Disharoon, director of sales and marketing for Watermark Cruises.

Although they are concerned about the construction, some residents of Eastport, the city's maritime hub, said they recognize the need for the improvements.

"I think it's going to be tough," said Dick Franyo, head of the Eastport Business Association. "But the thing needs to be resurfaced, and there's not much more the city can do."

When asked whether residents plan to protest the project, Franyo said not to expect any dissent.

"We're not sitting here fretting," said Franyo, who will continue to walk or ride his bike across the bridge. "Eastport residents don't really care because they'd just as soon stay over here anyway - this is our little Key West."

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