Senator Dyson Says New Thomas Johnson Bridge Span Needed

Senator Roy Dyson [D-St. Mary’s, Calvert, Charles] today testified February 15 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 acting Governor Blair Lee, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, Senator Ed Hall and other dignitaries. Senator Dyson 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 backing up in Prince Frederick and they were diverting it everywhere [but over the Thomas Johnson Bridge]. I was heading that way to go home.”

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 concrete laying on the ground.

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

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.

“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 important? The very real prospect of another bridge closing or a partial collapse of the structure or the department’s financial bottom line? I believe they should be more concerned about safety 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.”

In order to get this proof, I sent the following letter to Mr. Douglas Simmons who testified against my bill saying it was safe. I believe my constituents who are concerned about this issue deserve answers to these simple questions:

February 17, 2006

Mr. Douglas Simmons
Maryland Department of Transportation
707 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Dear Mr. Simmons:

You recently testified in opposition to Senate Bill 338—Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge—Second Companion Span.

During your testimony, you told committee members that the state had recently inspected the bridge and prounounced it safe. As someone who travels that bridge virtually every day, I’m pleased to hear that you perform such inspections.

However, much of your testimony in this regard left me with more questions than answers. It was not clear to me how frequently you inspect the bridge or if you inspect every aspect of the bridge, especially the pylons below the surface of the water where I hear from divers who believe there are major cracks.

You said the bridge is safe. What do you base that rather vague statement on?

If you could provide me and my constituents with a more detailed explanation of when and how the state conducted its investigation, I’d appreciate it.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Maryland Senator Roy Dyson
District 29

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