When it comes to building bridges, many people in Calvert and Dorchester counties would rather not, thank you.
Theirs is not a case of mutual animosity, but of opposition to a proposed second bridge for the Chesapeake Bay that would span the eight watery miles between the two counties.
A bridge for the lower bay would divert traffic from Rte. 50 and the existing Chesapeake Bay Bridge north of Annapolis. Critics in Dorchester and Calvert fear that the route through their rural, picturesque counties would evolve into a high-speed corridor lined with fast food restaurants and gas stations.
"If you ask me," said Richard Greene, owner of Greene's Liquors in Calvert County, "we've got enough traffic now. We don't want any more."
Admittedly, the proposed Lower Bay Bridge is less an actual plan than a long-cherished idea of state comptroller and Calvert County native Louis L. Goldstein, who first proposed it 30 years ago. Goldstein once even offered to donate any land he owned in Dorchester or Calvert that would be in the path of access roads. Gov. Harry Hughes rejected the idea of a second bridge in 1983, saying he didn't think it would generate enough in tolls to pay for itself.
In recent months, however, a tiny step has been taken toward Goldstein's realization of his dream: At the state's behest, a New York consulting firm is making a $25,000 feasibility study of the proposed bridge. The study's conclusions will be released in July.
In the meantime, residents of the county are starting to speak out.
"I have never had so many calls on any issue," said Calvert County Del. Thomas Rymer. "We're in hopes the bridge is not a big possibility. True, this issue has been raised on and off for the last 30 years. But you keep talking about these things and talking about them and then one day they happen."
Little is certain about the proposed bridge except that it might begin near Calvert Cliffs and Cove Point on the Calvert County side and connect with Taylor's Island in Dorchester.
It would bring traffic down lightly traveled Rtes. 2 and 4, a four-lane thoroughfare whose Rte. 4 leg begins in the District as Pennsylvania Avenue. In Dorchester, motorists would link up with Rte. 16, little more than a country road, and merge with beach-going traffic on Rte. 50 in Cambridge.
For residents of the Washington area, as much as an hour could be trimmed from a trip to the Eastern Shore, depending on where the trip started. Traffic on the existing Bay Bridge, the only convenient route to the Maryland and Delaware beaches for the Washington area, similarly would be reduced. Last year 12 million cars crossed the bridge, officials said.
But none of the calculations takes into account the impact on the area that would surround the alternative beach route, Rymer pointed out.
" . . .I see it as a pollutant of our way of life here in Calvert County, without any real economic advantage to us," he said. "Fast food stopovers and used beer cans will add very little to our quality of life.
"We're not trying to keep the rest of the world from coming down here," he said. "We just don't want thousands of cars."
Calvert County, population 38,000, is primarily rural and residential. Although Rte. 2/4 is the county's main artery, it has few of the trappings of a major highway.
Woods and lush fields bank each side of the road. Honeysuckle tangles with the foliage and small white churches dot the countryside. There are weathered gray barns, produce stands, signs advertising sod and manure for sale, and an occasional scarecrow.
It is true that some commercial development has sprouted on Rte. 2/4 near Prince Frederick, the county seat: A small shopping center with a grocery and drugstore, a McDonald's, a car dealership. But development in Calvert County has been carefully planned, Rymer said, to prevent the emergence of a strip. "We've tried very hard to keep our highway uncluttered, to keep commercial things off in the shopping centers," he said. "We don't want a thousand entrances and lights."
The Calvert Independent, a Prince Frederick-based weekly with a circulation of 8,000, recently concurred, in a vehement editorial.
"This nightmare has been dreamed up for us by Goldstein ," the paper declared. "While the comptroller has had some good ideas in his time, this isn't one of them."
Across the bay on Taylor's Island, a number of people seem to disapprove of the bridge proposal, said Jeff Pokrandt, editor of The Banner, in Cambridge. Some residents, however, see benefits to a bridge and the tourist dollars it would bring, Pokrandt said.
"There are two things at stake here," he said. "There's a way of life, a quality of life. Everything is pretty here, everything is nice to look at. But there is also the need for economic development."
Taylor's Island, with its flatland, marshes, pine forests and not a billboard in sight, is indeed picturesque. Route 16 passes by tiny marinas, old cemeteries with slanting stones and white frame houses with American flags planted in the yards. The glittering fingers of the bay often are visible from the roadside.
"Other people are against the bridge," said county Commissioner Leonard Dayton, "but I see nothing wrong with the study. I say, 'Let's find out.' In a rural county like ours, we can always use revenues."
Louie Goldstein said he is not surprised by negative reactions to his project. "Anytime you build a bridge or road, there's going to be opposition," he said. "Just like when we built the beltways. People didn't want them, and what would we do without them now?"
There is no cost estimate yet for the proposed bridge, Goldstein said, but tolls eventually would pay for its construction.
"I respect everybody who's for it. I respect everybody's who against it," he said. "That's why we're studying it."
On a recent afternoon, Calvert County residents Bobby Darnell, 19, and his brother, Jimmy, 17, were cleaning the barnacles off fishing nets outside their home near Calvert Cliffs. The bay, just beyond their backyard, was gray and a little choppy. Dorchester County was a faint blue outline near the horizon.
"I think it'll happen," said Bobby, a crab fisherman. "They didn't build that four-lane highway down here for nothing."
But the Darnells' neighbor, Chuck Slingland, doesn't think the bridge is anything to worry about -- yet.
"It would sure change things around here," said Slingland, 27, an engineer. "You'd have a weekend thoroughfare down here, is what you'd have. But I like to think that it's something the politicians are getting study money for and that's all."