CENTREVILLE - After a hiatus of nearly seven years, plans are in motion to once again allow pedestrians to cross the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge after the Queen Anne's County Commissioners signed agreements at their March 26 meeting to permit a race over the Chesapeake Bay.
In a showing of support, the commissioners endorsed two memorandums of understanding, approving an agreement between the county and Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) and another between the county and event organizer Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run LLC (CBBR), which will assume bridge responsibilities given to the county by MDTA, the state agency responsible for the Bay Bridge and Maryland's seven other toll facilities.
“Basically, the signing of (these documents) will start the 90 day clock that allows for a feasibility study to ensure that the surety and all the other expenditures that would be required -are taken care of,” said Queen Anne's County Director of Economic Development Faith Elliot-Rossing, who joined MDTA Executive Secretary Harold Bartlett at the meeting along with CBBR founders Sparrow Rogers and Peter Paris. “It gives the three entities - Queen Anne's County, MDTA and CBBR founders - an opportunity to work together to really kind of formalize the plan and the participants.”
The race, tentatively scheduled for Sunday Nov. 9, 2014, is expected to draw 20,000 participants who will make their way from Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel County to Kent Island via the eastbound span of the Bay Bridge. It is expected to fill the void left by the abandonment of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk, an annual event held in May that allowed partakers to cross the bridge by foot. It last occurred in 2006 but was discontinued by the MDTA citing poor weather, escalating costs, on-going construction and preservation projects.
“('10K Across the Bay') ties together the access that this state and this community had when they had the Bay Bridge Walk,” Rogers said in a presentation to the commissioners. “This was an asset and an icon that people felt was very important and they loved to be able to participate in that event. It was not feasible to continue that event in its format so we created a new format that will allow the community to once again be a participant on foot on one of the most beautifully assets in the country.”
Prior to approaching MDTA for permission to use the bridge, race organizers went to elected state officials seeking support. Maryland senators Richard Colburn, R-37-Mid-Shore, E.J. Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore and John Astle, D-30-Anne Arundel as well as Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-37B-Talbot backed CBBR allowing both Rogers and Paris the momentum needed to move forward with their planning. They then met with members of MDTA to begin negotiations.
According to Rogers, CBBR will be responsible for all bridge expenses and expects the cost of the race to exceed the approximate $450,000 total that the state paid to finance the Bridge Walk. The budget will include providing security, hiring shuttles for runners to return to their vehicles at Sandy Point, the participation of high-profile athletes and the reimbursement to MDTA for use of any operations or police personnel.
“On behalf of the Maryland Transportation Authority we are very excited about the possibility of having this race on our bridge,” said Bartlett. “(The bridge) is certainly an iconic feature of not only this part of our state but probably the rest of the country so I think it becomes a very exciting venue to have an activity of this nature.
“We are prepared to exercise this 90 day period where we kind of hammer out all the details associated with cost and responsibilities and we're very excited to participate in it,” Bartlett added. “I think particularly that it's important that this is structured in such a way that it's not just a singular event but it has the potential to be an event in 2014, 2015 and 2016.”
Unlike Bridge Walk, which began in Queen Anne's County and ended at Sandy Point, “10k Across the Bay” is expected to start on the Annapolis side of the bridge and conclude on the Eastern Shore. The plan is for the race to be an all-weekend event, with pre-race activities occurring on Friday and Saturday and the actual 10k taking place on Sunday.
“This is actually going to be one of those qualifying events for marathons so there is an attraction right there for runners who want to take their running to the next level, they can hit some of these qualifying events and then do their marathons,” said Commissioner Phil Dumenil. “The fact it's going to finish on this side of the bridge - you know the tourism and the dollars that can be generated by local businesses, hotels (and) things like that - we're pretty excited about it.”
Commissioner President Steve Arentz agreed.
“Back when we did the Bridge Walk, the economic dollars were really on the other side (of the bridge),” Arentz said. “We were the parking lot for that event which was OK to a point but the real dollars were spent over at Sandy Point.”
For Rogers and Paris, both of whom live on the Eastern Shore, their goal is to have the race end in Queen Anne's County for that very reason.
“When we looked at this and tried to create a new plan, our goal was to land it in Queen Anne's County so we could create a significant economic development opportunity for this county,” said Rogers. “(It would) let people stay on this side of the event to purchase things after the expo (and) to drink and celebrate their accomplishment of running over the bridge.”