State Digest


May 09, 2007

Commuter ferry gets test run on the bay

Proponents of a high-speed, passengers-only ferry service linking Annapolis, Kent Island and Baltimore held a sea trial yesterday, with a 22-minute voyage the group hopes will show the feasibility of the idea.

Several backers of the idea rode a 38-foot powerboat as it skimmed over the water between Annapolis' City Dock and Matapeake State Park on Kent Iisland.

"It's such a pleasant way to get around," said Bruce Johnson, a naval architecture expert on the Naval Academy faculty who commuted on the water when he lived in Seattle. "No traffic, no road rage, just the water and your coffee."

The test run was the latest effort by a committee of city officials, ferry fans and urban planners. Their draft proposal calls for two-vessel service from the harbor in Baltimore to Kent Island and then to City Dock. Commuters would shell out from $7 to $12 each way. Ferry commuters would feed into shuttle and bus services in Baltimore's Fells Point and Annapolis.

The Bay Bridge, which carries about 25 million vehicles a year, would see some relief, with a reduction of 200 vehicles a day, the proposal estimates.

Since the last major Eastern Shore ferry shut down almost six decades ago, a few others have tried but quickly run aground.

The present group of volunteers insists that the service would be more appealing now, given rising gasoline prices and predictions that volume on the Bay Bridge will worsen.

By 2010, Anne Arundel County is expected to see a nearly 10 percent population increase. Queen Anne's County is expected to see a nearly 20 percent boom, which all adds up to more traffic on the bridge.

Initial projections estimate that 25,000 ferry passengers a year would take the Baltimore-Eastern Shore route, with 40,000 taking the Eastern Shore-Annapolis leg.

The cost of a nine-month trial would be about $1.7 million. Committee member Chuck Weikel, a Democratic activist from Annapolis, said the group will next search for sources of federal funding.

Weikel characterized the project as a "long march."

"This could change the way we think about our lives," he said.



MDE completes case review

The Maryland Department of the Environment has completed its review of its handling of complaints and violations, saying in most cases the agency is doing its job.

The department looked at more than a thousand notices for infractions ranging from destroying wetlands to polluting the air and water, and found that 63 had fallen through the cracks. About a third of those are considered to be cases with a public health concern, and those are being fast-tracked, said MDE spokesman Robert Ballinger.

"We average more than 1,500 enforcement actions each year," Ballinger said. "Now we know which cases did not meet the secretary's definition of `in a timely manner.'"

Ballinger declined to elaborate on the types of violations that MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson said the agency had failed to pursue quickly enough, saying he did not want to tip off the violators.

The cases will be referred to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who will decide whether further action will be taken. Gansler, who took office in January, made environmental law enforcement one of the cornerstones of his campaign.

MDE's review was prompted by the case of Fred Hertrich, an Eastern Shore car dealer and horse breeder, who agency officials say cleared and filled a 70-acre tract of wetlands in Federalsburg to make a pasture for his horses.

More than a year ago, MDE notified Hertrich that he had violated the law and ordered him to submit a plan to restore the wetlands. Hertrich never did that, even after subsequent MDE inspectors reminded him to mitigate the damage or face prosecution. Last month, the MDE and the attorney general's office filed suit in Caroline County, charging Hertrich with violating state environmental law.

Rona Kobell

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.