- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer yesterday told Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. he must take responsibility for the repaving problems that will keep the Chesapeake Bay Bridge under repair until 2007.

“You have to make a statement about the bridge,” Mr. Schaefer, a Democrat and former Maryland governor, told Mr. Ehrlich at a meeting of the Board of Public Works. “Summertime is coming, and you are going to have traffic jams like you never imagined.”

He also vowed to stand at the bridge entrance and tell frustrated vacationers trying to reach Ocean City that the traffic backups are the governor’s fault.

The board, which consists of the governor, comptroller and State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, has become a forum for Mr. Schaefer’s occasional inflammatory diatribes and for him to air grievances.

Still, Mr. Schaefer’s admonishments of Mr. Ehrlich do not compare with his criticism of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

“I like you,” he told Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. “But sometimes you are a pain ….”

Mr. Ehrlich remained expressionless as he stared at the comptroller and promised him a personal update from Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan.

He also vowed that the findings from the Maryland attorney general’s investigation into mismanagement of the $70 million bridge project would be made public.

The bridge renovations have had repeated delays. Last fall, concrete on the westbound lanes began to break apart and had to be replaced.

Mrs. Kopp, a Democrat, defended the administration, saying the bridge project has a “long history” that predates Mr. Ehrlich’s election in 2002.

Still, Mr. Schaefer pressed the governor and Deputy Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr., who represented the department at the meeting, to single out the culprit in the project delays.

Mr. Ports said the recent problems, which resulted from use of a faulty epoxy, may be due to the scope of the project, the contractors or the inspectors on the job. However, he declined to place blame before completion of the investigation.

Mr. Flanagan last week announced that the bridge work was being slowed down while the plan is revised. The new delay will push back the completion date from this spring until 2007, he said.

Mr. Schaefer also defended Tom Osborne, the former executive director of the Maryland Transportation Authority who resigned following problems with the concrete work on the westbound lanes.

“Come on, I’m a big boy” Mr. Schaefer said as he prodded Mr. Ports to blame other officials in the transportation department. “Osborne was a fall guy.”

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