KING GEORGE COUNTY, Va. - A group of outdoor advocates and bicycling groups are trying to prevent a major bridge from being torn down.
The groups are suing several Maryland agencies, as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation to prevent the old Harry Nice Bridge from being demolished.
Those Maryland agencies declined to comment on the pending litigation for this story but did confirm the demolition process is set to begin Thursday, Oct. 13.
"It’s a tough fight when a small group of people get together to fight the government, but I know we’ve got right on our side," said David Brinkley, president of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail Association.
The current Harry Nice Bridge is two lanes, and a major thoroughfare connecting King George County, Virginia and Charles County, Maryland.
State and Federal law require any new bridge undergo several studies of both the environmental and transportation impact.
The advocates say the original plans for the new $765 million bridge did that. The study found "no significant impact" on the new construction. But those plans also included a bridge wide enough to allow for a protected pedestrian and bicycling path on the bridge.
NEWBURG, MD - APRIL 8: In an aerial view, construction continues on a new $463 million Nice/Middleton Bridge on April 8, 2021 in Newburg, Maryland. The bridge will replace the current Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, which links Newburg, Maryl
In 2019, the Maryland Transportation Authority instead voted to approve a $463 million dollar contract that did not have state funding for the bike and pedestrian paths.
The MTA said it offered to turn the old bridge over to Charles County, "but county officials declined the offer."
The advocates suing now say they believe the change of plans, while approved by the MTA, did not meet the rigorous environmental and transportation impact studies required. They argue since those studies were not done to the same extent as the original project, the old bridge should be kept and turned into a pedestrian and cycling bridge.
"It’s clear from our perspective that Maryland did not do the environmental homework and the studies that they needed to do to make this change by eliminating the bicycle and pedestrian paths, rights of ways on the new Nice Bridge," Brinkley said.
Now, the state is planning on beginning demolition this coming Thursday, and a federal judge in Baltimore will hold a hearing Tuesday to determine what happens next.