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Posted on May 17, 2006:
Calls are still coming into my office after the tragic accident on Route 4 which closed that road for more than six hours. Of all the calls, the one most telling was a question: What would have happened if this accident had occurred the same day and time as the terrible fire in Solomons which occurred about a month earlier.
How about this question. What if there had been a major incident at the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge on that day.
This past Monday, I discussed before members of the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce the importance of building a second span on the Thomas Johnson Bridge. I was also interviewed on WTOP about the many problems the current bridge poses including heavy traffic congestion and safety concerns. A few hours later, I received a supportive e-mail from a constituent
I have been concerned about this issue for many years. The Thomas Johnson Bridge is a major link between Calvert and St. Mary's County.
Backups on this bridge during rush hour are horrible under normal circumstances. When there is an accident, traffic virtually stops.
For the past two years, I introduced Senate Bill 338 which would have required the Secretary of Transportation to include sufficient funds in the Consolidated Transportation Program for Fiscal Years 2007 through 2012 for the planning, design, and construction of a second companion span for the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge. It also would have required the Secretary to make sufficient funds available for Fiscal Year 2007 for the planning and design of the second companion span. Unfortunately, the Budget and Taxation Committee on which I do not sit, has killed the bill the past two General Assembly Sessions. Instead of letting the issue just idle until next year's Session, I took another step.
I wrote to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski asking her for federal help. If the U.S. Congress can pass wasteful legislation approving the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" -- a pet project of powerful Alaska Senator Ted Stevens for less than 60 people -- we should be able to procure federal funds for a bridge of this important bridge that affects Calvert and St. Mary's counties.
As she has done for so many years, Senator Mikulski responded immediately to my request for help. In an April 18 letter to me, Senator Mikulski states "As we both know, the Thomas Johnson Bridge was completed in 1977 -- and since that time, St. Mary's and Calvert counties have grown extraordinarily...One of my top priorities is making sure that federal transportation spending in Maryland goes toward projects where it can do the most good...I also want you to know that your views on the need for improvements and expansion of the Thomas Johnson Bridge are very helpful to me as I work toward securing federal funding for transportation projects across the state."
Senator Mikulski's letter also informed me that she wrote to Governor Ehrlich "joining in your call for the State Highway Administration to undertake a study of the safety of the bridge and as well as a feasibility study of building a second span."
I am hoping that the governor responds favorably to Senator Mikulski since so far, he has been silent on the issue. I am disappointed that he has not supported my legislation the past two years, instead dispatching officials of the Maryland Department of Transportation to actively work against my bill.
When it comes to the often hellish Thomas Johnson Bridge, politics needs to be brushed aside. Two recent tragedies occurred in Calvert County that showed the necessity of building a second span.
On April 17, a horrible accident virtually closed down Route 4 for hours more than six hours. One of my constituents had a very important meeting in Baltimore and was stuck in the traffic. She was able to double back on the opposite side of Route 4 and access the Thomas Johnson Bridge to go through St. Mary's County to make her meeting. The accident shows just how limited our transportation options are in Southern Maryland.
During the General Assembly Session, a tragic fire broke out in Solomons. Thanks to our fire and rescue companies' quick action, the fire was contained quickly and a complete disaster was averted despite the sad fact that two beloved restaurants were destroyed. Due to public concern about the fire, traffic slowed to a crawl on the bridge which slowed some fire companies' response to the scene.
According to a report from the St. Mary's County Government's Department of Public Safety "In reference to the traffic problem on the bridge during the Solomons fire, the 1st and 2nd alarm units did not have a problem, but the late units did because of the spectator back up traffic."
These incidences show how vital another span on the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge is to both counties. Governor Robert Ehrlich, how about helping Governor Thomas Johnson?
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