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Opponents of Funkstown bridge closure can air concerns at Wed. hearing

May 13, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

FUNKSTOWN -- Opponents of a planned bridge closure on East Oak Ridge Drive will have a chance to voice their concerns Wednesday.

The Washington County Division of Public Works will hold a public hearing on its plans to close a one-lane, stone arch bridge in Funkstown for five months for rehabilitation.

Merchants in the area say the bridge closure will hurt their businesses because traffic will be redirected around their shops during the reconstruction.

Washington County Commissioners and some state legislators are expected to attend the hearing, which will start at 7 p.m. at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

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Wednesday's meeting will be the first official public hearing on the planned bridge closure, though several residents argued against the project at a similar public meeting March 6.

County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said he expects opponents to make many of the same arguments that were heard in March.

Aleshire was one of four county commissioners who in February voted against building a temporary bridge, a solution that some opponents of the closure have advocated.

Several commissioners said installing a temporary bridge would cost too much and would delay the project from this summer until next spring.

The commissioners voted instead to compress the project's construction schedule from six months to five months to lessen the inconvenience.

Commissioners President John F. Barr was the only commissioner to vote against the proposal, saying it did not do enough to help businesses.

In April, some state lawmakers attempted to force the commissioners to revisit the issue by amending a county roads bill to delay the project until an economic study was done.

But the bill died in a state legislative committee.

Several commissioners said Monday that public hearing will be useful both for the county and the project's opponents.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said it will give opponents a chance to review cost estimates for a temporary bridge. He said it also will give the county another chance to consider the opponents' arguments.

Commissioner Terry L. Baker, who voted against a temporary bridge in February, said he is open to changing his mind about the project.

Aleshire said Monday that "it is always a benefit to hear from those affected" by county decisions.

However, he said the meeting likely won't change his mind.

"I don't think it's going to have any bearing on us increasing the cost of this project," Aleshire said.

If You Go



What: Public hearing on the East Oak Ridge Drive bridge repairs and closure

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where: E. Russell Hicks Middle School

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