- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

OCEAN CITY (AP) — State highway officials say they will use ideas submitted by the public to develop several concepts on a replacement for the Harry W. Kelley Memorial Bridge, which delivers Route 50 travelers across Sinepuxent Bay.

The concepts will go on public display this fall.

Blank drawings of the crossing will soon appear on the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Web site (www.sha.state.md.us), so residents can download them and make a blueprint.

“We’ll have a blank base map,” project manager Chris Weber said. “People can print it out and mail it back to us.”

State officials have $2.5 million to design options for the Route 50 bridge, including a new bridge, ways to rehabilitate the current span or potentially developing a span that doesn’t include a bridge, such as a tunnel.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, announced the study in August, saying the bridge, built in 1942, was “showing its age.”

Engineers think the bridge can operate for 15 to 40 more years.

Several people have said they want more room for fishing and walking on a replacement span.

“We came away with at least a half-dozen sketches,” Mr. Weber said of recent public presentation sessions. “We will come back in the fall with all our concepts — good, bad or otherwise.”

Ocean City Mayor Jim Mathias said he was impressed by the state’s willingness to take suggestions about the crossing.

Mr. Mathias said he has thought for a long time that a replacement was the right choice.

“I want to learn more information,” he said. “That’s what the project’s about.”

The study takes place as Ocean City officials debate whether to build a downtown parking garage to handle tourist traffic and cars driven by people working downtown.

The Town Council recently raised parking fines on downtown meters. Several council members have asked the state to consider building a separate fishing pier near the existing bridge, possibly before the bridge work itself begins.

“If we did go with a new bridge, that would be part of it,” Mr. Weber said of the pedestrian and fisherman access elements. “But a new bridge is just one option.”

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