No need to wait to start building Third Span
Long before Sunday morning’s tragic accident on the Bay Bridge, the need has been existent for a new span across the Chesapeake Bay. This has little to do with the accident, and everything to do with traffic, congestion, and public safety.
Well Paul Foer, ever the voice of failure and bad public policy, spouted off about how horrible that thought was:
It was not long after the recent fatal crash on our Bay Bridges (yes there are two of them as well as the bridge-tunnel near Norfolk) that some clamored for another crossing, a third span…yada yada yada…Okay-how often is there a fatal or serious crash on the bridges? Well they happen, but seriously, how often? Any more than on any other busy road? Of course the aftermath of tie-ups is worse, but does this mean we need another bridge? Sure, if you just want to build and develop and slash and burn, go ahead and make another bridge.
Of course, the construction of the new bridge has little to do with growth and little to do with development. Those are county zoning issues that are not impacted by the state. True, it may make the Eastern Shore more accessible, but isn’t that the point of building a new span? Not necessarily for development, but to allow to improve the economy and to provide a more adequate public safety capability for the Shore?
I mean, does anybody really want to see a 25-mile backup on Route 50 if thousands of Eastern Shore residents are trying to evacuate to the Western Shore due to an imminently landfalling hurricane? Because even with a contraflow traffic pattern, five lanes going westbound would not be able to handle that capacity in an emergency, and if an accident were to close one of the spans during that evacuation the impact could be catastrophic.
But we cannot build our way out of this one. The first crossing was in 1952 and then just 21 years later we opened a second one. Even if we could and did build a third to open in five years or so, would we find ourselves crying for another–a fourth crossing in the year 2020 or 2025? And we must ask ourselves that given what we can reasonably expect about the future of oil and all energy, as well as the environmental concerns, are we sure we really want to keep building as usual, imposing 1950’s solutions on 21st and 22nd century challenges? If traffic is the problem and cars and roads make traffic, why would we want to continue adding cars and roads in order to alleviate traffic? Surely the argument is vastly more complex than I make it here, but we must really face the facts and ask ourselves if building more roads and highways is a viable or even sustainable option.
Obviously, Foer wants to talk about the need for a fourth span when we haven’t even built the third span. As usually, Foer goes straight for the strawman argument that we may need to do more in the future. Well, not if you plan appropriately now. I have called for a six-lane span to be built at the current site, which would allow for eleven lanes of traffic crossing the Bay. And the span can even be constructed in a manner that allows multi-modal transportation options, including light or heavy rail, and dedicated rapid bus transit lanes. That’s not a “1950’s solution”; that’s a solution that looks toward the future and allows for considerable relief options for transportation planners.
And if Foer wants to make an environmental argument, I say this: isn’t it more environmentally sound for traffic to move at a reasonable rate than to have a five-mile backup of cars inefficiently spewing pollutants into the atmosphere?
Then, because Foer has no intelligible points to make, he switches over to yelling:
THE DAYS OF CHEAP OIL ARE OVER. EVENTUALLY WE WILL RUN OUT. EVERY ALTERNATIVE IS FRAUGHT WITH DIFFICULTY AND DOWNSIDES. HOWEVER, WE MUST FACE THE FACTS AND THEY ARE THAT WE CANNOT BUILD OURSELVES OUT OF TRAFFIC CONGESTION. IT MAY HAVE WORKED IN SOME PLACES FOR SOME TIMES, BUT THOSE DAYS ARE BEHIND US.
Of course, we can build ourselves out of congestion by adding highway lane-miles to our infrastructure. Foer says we can’t, because only because the thought makes him unhappy and he likes to pout. Obviously if you expand highway capacity, you reduce highway congestion. Even a third-grader could figure that out.
The ostrich philosophy of the left, that by sticking our head in the sand and hoping our traffic problems disappear, is problematic. We do not have a transportation infrastructure that can sustain the amount of traffic in the area, the legacy of the de-mapping trend from the 60’s and 70’s (something I wrote about three years ago). Not dealing with the issue, by not adding more lane-miles to Maryland’s transportation system, we are doing little but to further degrade the economic, public safety, and yes environmental posture of our state..
We have the capability to do this, to not only build a third span, but also improve mass transit options, through privatization as I have long been advocating. This project needs to be started, and started as quickly as humanly possible.