Senator Dyson Says New Thomas Johnson Bridge Span Needed

Senator Roy Dyson [D-St. Mary’s, Calvert, Charles] today testified on behalf of Senate Bill 338, which calls for a second span of the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge. Senate Bill 338 requires 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 bridge and requires the Secretary to make sufficient funds available for Fiscal Year 2007 for the planning and design of the second companion span.

Testifying before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Senator Dyson stipulated that traffic on the bridge is horrendous every day, but said his main concern was safety.

He recalled attending the brand new bridge’s opening in the late 1970s with former acting Governor Blair Lee, former Senator Ed Hall and other dignitaries. He then added that just 10 years later, he received a call from his secretary in Washington when he was serving in the U.S. Congress stating that the bridge had been closed for safety reasons.

“She rattled off about four or five messages in a row before I had to stop her when she told me about the Thomas Johnson Bridge closing” Senator Dyson told committee members. “Traffic was backed up into Prince Frederick and they were diverting it everywhere [but over the Thomas Johnson Bridge]. I was heading that way to go home that day.”

Senator Dyson then told committee members that during a recent visit under the Calvert County side of the bridge that he noticed large chunks of the bridge laying on the ground.

“I don’t think it’s safe and I travel over that bridge two, sometimes three times a day,” Senator Dyson said. “Some people have a real fear that bridge is going to fall into the river.”

Senator Dyson disputed the Maryland Department of Transportation’s position that the bill was safe and was seconded by Senator Gloria Lawlah (D-Prince George’s) who cited similar safety concerns in the past over the Maryland side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge which is located in the area she represents.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is currently undergoing a massive reconstruction.

“I’ll tell you that that little bridge (The Thomas Johnson Bridge) has three times as much traffic [as it should],” Budget and Taxation Committee member Senator Lawlah told her fellow committee members. “Just like the Woodrow Wilson Bridge had three times as much traffic before we did something about it.”

The [MDOT] says Senate Bill 338 is setting “a dangerous precedent that would limit MDOT’s ability to control its own budget,” Senator Dyson said reading from the department’s opposition paper. “What’s more dangerous? The very real prospect of another bridge closing or a partial collapse of a structure few in my district have ever really trusted or the department’s financial bottom line,” Senator Dyson said. “I believe they should be more concerned about the danger of the bridge.”

While MDOT has said the bridge is structurally safe, Senator Dyson wondered after the hearing why the general public has never been apprized of “these studies they trot out each year while trying to derail this important bill. They say it’s safe. They say they have proof it’s safe. But they never bring the proof.”

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