WASHINGTON – Boaters may have to wait to get through the Kent Narrows this summer, as state officials test a drawbridge opening plan that they hope will strike a balance between commuters and boaters.
From May 1 to July 29, the drawbridge will be raised only on the half-hour and the hour from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., forcing boaters to wait if they arrive in between those times, according to bridge operator Rick Stamps.
“Right now, when boats want to pass, they have notify me,” Stamps said. “It’s upon request.
“There is so much boat traffic, we can’t open the bridge for every sailboat that comes through,” he said. “We have to allow for land traffic also.”
The 90-day trial, proposed by the Maryland State Highway Administration, was formally announced by the Coast Guard on Friday in the Federal Register.
Mark Billups, an assistant manager at Mears Point Marina in Grasonville, said he expects to hear some complaints from boaters about the procedure. He said he already gets complaints from commuters, who say that the bridge is up too often.
“I’ll get complaints about it, because in the past . . . you’d get boats that would show up a quarter after the hour, call the bridge tender and want the bridge raised, and they would do it occasionally,” said Billups, whose marina harbors over 500 boats. “I think they are trying to get away from that.”
Virginia Damron, 67, of Grasonville, said she depends on the Kent Narrows drawbridge to go to the grocery. She said traffic is unbearable, and residents would welcome any relief.
“The only shopping area in Queen Anne’s County for me is Kent Island, and I have to go either on (Route) 50 or use the drawbridge,” she said.
Damron said locals like her prefer the drawbridge to the highway. But increasingly, tourists heading to Ocean City have been clogging up the drawbridge. She worries about elderly people on Kent Island who she said stay indoors because the traffic is too much for them.
“It’s impossible,” Damron said of the traffic. “It’s just so many people down here who have lived here their whole life, and they really can’t cope with it.”
The highway administration said in the Federal Register notice that it wants the public to comment on the drawbridge opening schedule. In the meantime, Stamps has his own comment for the public.
“To those who have to wait either by land or by sea: Enjoy the view,” he said. “So many people get so frustrated. Enjoy it, even if it’s raining. Enjoy the ships passing.”
-30- CNS 04-16-04