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Temporary bridge is no solution for Funkstown

April 04, 2008|By KRISTIN ALESHIRE

In response to recent inquiries about reconsideration of constructing a temporary bridge in Funkstown, I would like to clarify some misinformation. To begin with, four of the Washington County Commissioners opposed the temporary bridge and staff was told to move forward with work necessary to restore the historic bridge, based on time, limitations and a financial analysis.

The timing of the project is directly associated with federal funding and improvements to prevent further degradation. The old bridge cannot be removed or altered (widened), not because that's what we want, but because of federal historic-preservation guidelines.

Those guidelines mean we must make repairs needed to the prevent failure of the bridge. Using federal funds allocated for a specific project in a specific timeframe means we cannot alter its historic appearance, as some feel should be done.

The following problems will occur if the project is delayed while considering placement of a temporary bridge alongside the historic one for the convenience of those property owners who object to having it closed for six months.

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· Adding a temporary bridge will delay the project by years, which in the likely event the older bridge then fails, will shut down the bridge for much longer than the proposed period and possibly jeopardize preservation of this 170-plus-year old structure.

· Delay will jeopardize federal funding of up to $1 million dollars, an amount that will then need to be picked up by county taxpayers.

· A temporary bridge will add millions to the cost of the project, including more than $1 million for the bridge, unknown costs and delays while securing private rights-of-way, relocating utilities, securing new embankment foundations and then restoring this temporary site to its original condition.

· There is no guarantee during this period of delay and possible funding loss that a temporary bridge is even feasible, as any one of the problems mentioned previously will more than likely not be solved. Among other things, there is a very small staging area for the work to be done.

· The commissioners voted to add $60,000 in additional funds to the contract to provide the contractor with an incentive to fast-track the repairs and complete them in five months instead of six.

· Providing the major costly alternative of a temporary bridge would set a horrible precedent for the future that could add millions to every public project where such arguments from affected property owners could be made.

Just recently, however, some members of Washington County's General Assembly delegation have decided - without any communication with our professional engineering staff or elected officials - to tie up the funding of this necessary project, which could lead to loss of federal funding.

In my effort to attend every meeting and candidly answer every citizen e-mail on this issue, I have not once seen or heard from any delegation member on this issue. Instead, similar to the bullish approach that has now left state funding in jeopardy for many of our necessary county projects, this county-level decision is being treated to the same fruitless approach.

If previous results are any indication of how helpful that approach has been at the state level, I would respectfully ask that we be spared that same "helpful" hand. I have no interest in delaying this project for years while adding millions to the cost and setting a terrible precedent, all because a few legislators far removed from project seek to increase their popularity by demanding an "economic impact study."

In the end, such a delay would only result in passing along an unjustifiable and unnecessary expense to county taxpayers.

Kristin Aleshire is a Washington County Commissioner.

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