Bridge-phobes might be facing a fee

August 26, 2006|By Doug Donovan

Every year about 4,000 motorists pull their cars over before driving across the Bay Bridge and acknowledge that they are too scared to cross the 4.3-mile-long span on their own.

Enter the Maryland Transportation Authority. Since 1997, the state agency has provided free escorts to help bridge-phobic drivers to the other side.

But now state officials want to turn that service over to a private company that will charge a fee for helping fearful drivers. A private contractor will give state employees more time to tend to their primary duties of helping cars stranded on the bridge for other reasons: gas, oil, flat tires, accidents.

"That is their primary mission," said Teri Moss, a transportation authority spokeswoman. "We want to free those technicians up to keep traffic moving at the bridge."

The transportation authority is currently considering proposals from several companies to assist scared drivers across the bridge for a small fee.

Typically, one state employee will take the wheel of the scared motorist's car while another follows to provide the driver a return ride. The state employees will also tow a car across so that only one employee has to spend time assisting. Often the drivers cower in the back seats with towels over their heads, according to previous reports in The Sun.

Moss said she was not sure when a private contractor would be chosen. She said the state wants to make sure that the fees will be reasonable.

The fear of bridges, known as gephyrophobia, has hit Bay Bridge drivers especially hard. In 1997, the problem was so common that such motorists had their own therapy group, called the Bay Bridge Anxiety Project.

It's easy to see why. The dual-span, curving bridge with see-through siderails rises as high as 186 feet above the Chesapeake Bay.

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