Spotlight: Susquehanna River Crossing: A Victory in the Making

The East Coast Greenway spans nearly 2,900 miles between Calais and Key West, and crosses many rivers along the way. Among them are some of our country’s most storied, including the Hudson, Delaware, Savannah, Cape Fear, James, Potomac, and Androscoggin. Most are crossed by bridge, others by ferry or water taxi.

Susquehanna River

Looking north (upstream) at the four bridges near the mouth of the river, from near to far: Amtrak’s bridge, Hatem Bridge, freight rail, I-95. Photo Credit: Ben Longstaff, IAN, UMCES

Only one requires ECG users to take a bus or taxi, or to secure a police escort to cross legally. That’s the mighty Susquehanna River, where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at the river’s mouth between Havre de Grace and Perryville, MD. Four bridges connect Havre de Grace to Perryville, yet not one allows people to cross on foot or by bike. The nearest legal crossing is 10 miles upstream, and the nearest safe crossing is in Pennsylvania, 30 miles upstream.

We have some very promising news. On February 10, 2016, Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn announced that the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge – one of the four connecting Perryville and Havre de Grace – will open to bicycles beginning July 1, 2016. Details are being worked out at this time and we will provide more information as we receive it. Thank you to Governor Larry Hogan, Bike Maryland, Maryland Department of Transportation’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission Chair and ECGA Trail Council Member Eric Brenner, ECGA Mid-Atlantic Coordinator Andy Hamilton, and the more than 9,300 people who have signed our Susquehanna campaign petition over the past two years. Please join us in thanking Maryland DOT Secretary Pete Rahn by sending him a quick thank-you note via this email link.

ECGA Regional Coordinator Andy Hamilton and MD State Officials Inspect Finger Joints on Hatem Bridge

On Hatem Bridge in October 2015. Left-to-right: ECGA Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator Andy Hamilton, two MD Transportation Authority representatives, Toole Design Group’s Melanie Alliston-Brick, and Alta Planning + Design’s Melissa Miklus. Photo: Nate Evans, Bike Maryland

We know that given current conditions on the bridge (traffic volumes, average speeds, lane width, etc.), simply allowing bicyclists to use the bridge legally is not enough. It’s a first step. The next step is addressing improvements necessary for the safety of cyclists crossing the Hatem Bridge. Between now and July 1, the ECGA will provide input to help the managing agencies develop and implement a plan for maximizing the safety of non-motorized bridge users. We are optimistic that a good plan will be implemented.

However, if we are concerned that bridge conditions will put bicyclists at high risk when the bridge opens to them on July 1, we will weigh options, communicate them clearly with our users, and continue working toward improvements. The safety of ECG users is paramount. While we will continue to campaign for a future traffic-separated facility for pedestrians and bicyclists spanning the Susquehanna River, we now celebrate this first victory in moving non-motorized access forward.

 

This blog post appeared in the February 2016 E-Newsletter.

Related Regional Media