U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Monday she will work to ensure a timely replacement for the Woodrow Wilson bridge, and expressed opposition to another Potomac River crossing that would come ashore in Charles County.
The Maryland Democrat also said she believes the Navy base at Indian Head may be safe from further job cuts.
Mikulski on Monday met in La Plata with Charles County commissioners, one in a series of periodic sessions she holds with local elected officials. Earlier this year she met with commissioners in Calvert County and St. Mary's County.
Mikulski said the informal meetings give her an overview of local concerns. "We get our 'must-do' list," said the senator, who last year won reelection to a third term.
Charles commissioners told Mikulski they are eager to see a replacement for the Wilson bridge, if only to avoid an increase in long-haul trucking on U.S. Route 301 in Charles County. The road is an alternative for some traffic that normally would cross the Wilson bridge.
"If the Woodrow Wilson bridge is not repaired and it fails, those trucks have to go somewhere else. And we're it," said Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large).
Mikulski said she shares such concerns.
"We need to replace the bridge, and we need to do it with a sense of urgency," she said.
Mikulski said regional members of Congress are working to secure an additional $600 million in federal money to complete funding for a new bridge. Federal officials already have pledged $900 million.
Commissioners told Mikulski they worry the idea of a so-called southern crossing of the Potomac may be resurfacing. Maryland officials rejected a proposal for a bridge between Charles County and Virginia in the early 1990s amid tight budgets and public outcry.
However, as part of a lawsuit settlement earlier this year, federal transportation officials pledged to study whether another river crossing should be built south of the Wilson bridge.
"I'm against it," Mikulski said of a southern crossing. She said efforts need to focus on replacing the Wilson bridge.
When asked by commissioners about protecting the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Mikulski said she foresaw no further cuts in defense spending, "which bodes well for Indian Head."
But, she warned, "We have to stand sentry" against efforts to move Indian Head's work to the China Lake base in California.
The work force at Indian Head has shrunk by about 1,000 people, or more than 30 percent, over the past seven years. In addition, base officials now are seeking authorization to lay off 100 workers.
The base remains among the county's largest employers.
Commissioners also told Mikulski they are concerned about increased movement of garbage through the county to landfills in Virginia, saying such shipments smell bad and may pose a health threat as well as a threat to traffic safety.
Interstate movement of trash through Southern Maryland has accelerated in the 1990s following deregulation of the industry and the construction of several large landfills in Virginia. Mikulski pledged to watch for federal legislation that may affect the interstate trash industry.
Mikulski also said she would ask federal emergency management officials to help finance the county's proposed new telecommunications system. The system, to be used by public safety officers and others, will cost an estimated $20 million, commissioners said.
Levy, the commissioners president, said the senator "quieted some fears" about Indian Head. And, he said, it was important to make sure Mikulski knows about the possible revival of interest in another Potomac River crossing.