Editorial: Getting across?


The term bridge to nowhere has become something of a politically charged euphemism for government waste, but it is rather appropriate for two recently completed Harford County roads projects, and could well be applied to a third that's in the works.

A few years back, under a previous county executive, there was a proposal to build a bridge over a creek named Broad Run, in Creswell, so as to allow for a thoroughfare linking Wheel Road to Route 136. The project faced opposition from people who didn't want their neighborhood streets being turned into shortcuts. It was also opposed on the grounds that it would be a reason to extend the county's development area, known as the Development Envelope, beyond its boundaries into the Route 136 corridor. That bridge and roadway opened, unceremoniously, last week.

A few weeks before the opening of the Cedarday cut-through, the county had an opening ceremony for a bridge on North Avenue off Rock Spring Road in Bel Air. This bridge spans Bynum Run and links North Avenue to Henderson Road, opening a residential cut-through that allows people going from northern Bel Air and Forest Hill to Campus Hills to avoid traffic lights, though it'll probably result in a traffic light being needed at Henderson Road and Conowingo Road in a few years. At the other end, the intersection of North Avenue, James Avenue, Rock Spring Road and the Bel Air Bypass ramps already is a mess, and the new cut-through promises to make it worse.

The two new bridges have made short-cuts possible through areas that are largely residential, but it remains to be seen how necessary they are. All are in neighborhoods that are easily accessible by police and emergency equipment from other entrance points.

Furthermore, while there's reason to suspect land development interests were behind the Cedarday shortcut, and might have an interest in replacing the Winters Run bridge, there's not much territory ripe for development in the area served by the North Avenue connector.

Harford County is in need of roadwork and bridge repairs — though unfortunately a lot of the roads that need it most are state rather than county roads — but a little bit more attention should be paid to where new bridges are being built. If a bridge is built to alleviate traffic in another area, it's probably justified.

In each of these cases, however, the amount of traffic being diverted isn't large enough to make a difference on nearby thoroughfares, even as it has the potential to make a big difference to the people who live along the roadways. Providing shortcuts through neighborhoods is something public works operations should strive to avoid doing.

Unfortunately, unnecessary short-cuts through neighborhoods are the only things these bridges provide.

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