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Planning For Run Thrown Off Stride

Bay Bridge Work May Prevent Event

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page C03

The seemingly endless construction on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge has provoked a litany of gripes as long as the span itself, from harried commuters stuck in miles-long traffic jams to taxpayers furious at a botched paving job that could cost more than $7 million to repair.

Now there might be another angry constituency: the 60,000 people who come from as far as Mexico and Britain each May to sprint or amble across the Bay Bridge.

In the past three years, only the 2004 Bay Bridge run and walk went on as planned. Weather and security concerns canceled the two prior runs. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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Maryland transportation officials told organizers of the annual Bay Bridge Walk and Governor's Bay Bridge Run that the events will probably be canceled this year because of the construction, said Charles J. Muskin, president of the Annapolis Striders, a running club that helps organize the event.

"They are doing a lot of work on the weekends, and I guess they cannot afford to give up an entire day," he said. "It's very discouraging."

The four-year, $60 million project to refurbish the bridge has been plagued with problems in recent months. The executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority resigned in October after workers discovered that a two-mile stretch of the bridge had been improperly paved and would have to be redone. Last month, officials said the underside of the westbound span was crumbling and may have to be replaced.

Although state officials have not publicly called off the May 1 events, organizers of the Governor's Bay Bridge Run stopped online registration for the race this week and said the run was temporarily canceled. The group plans to refund any money collected if necessary.

"It's a bit of an emotional roller coaster," Muskin said. "We're not 100 percent sure at this point that the cancellation is final, but we're not very optimistic."

This would be the third time in four years that the event has been called off. In 2002, torrential rains and a tornado that whirled through the region were the culprits. The following year, transportation officials called off the event during a heightened security alert because of a lack of law enforcement personnel to monitor the bridge.

The 10-kilometer race is a draw for harriers from across the county enamored with the scenic views from the 4.3-mile bridge. Since registration opened Jan. 14, more than 350 people had signed up. Muskin said the race usually attracts 3,000 runners from states as far apart as Maine and California.

"We get a smattering from all over the country," he said.

Hamilton Tyler, 41, has run the course seven times and said nothing compares to the view from center of the bridge.

"It's just breathtaking to be up there and see boats going by on either side," said Tyler, a board member of the Annapolis Striders who lives in Millersville. "How often do you get to be up there when you're not in a car?"

Transportation officials close the two-lane eastbound span of the bridge during the events and direct all traffic onto the three-lane westbound section. But since Jan. 3, the center lane of the westbound section has been closed. Construction workers sometimes shut a second lane on that section.

"That would only leave one lane open on the entire bridge for two-way traffic," Tyler said. "That obviously wouldn't work."

Despite the multiple cancellations in recent years, Muskin said the Annapolis Striders would not abandon the race.

"We're a hearty group," he said. "We'll be back next year."

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