Capital Guest Column: “Our own Bermuda Triangle in the Annapolis Neck”

Capital Gazette: May 7, 2016

By: John W. Van de Kamp, Capital Guest Columnist and Editorial Board Member

It all starts at the bizarre Forest Drive/Bay Ridge Road intersection. It’s Murphy’s law’s playground. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong here.

Maybe the Annapolis Neck is the problem. It’s a peninsula — one way in and out unless you escape by boat.

Traffic into and out of the Neck is fierce. Move with it or expect to be rear-ended, sideswiped or broadsided. There are intense rush hours — morning, noon and evening.

The Neck has one-quarter of Annapolis’ population, over 11,000. Most commute to Washington or the National Security Agency.

It is self-sufficient. There are over 66 businesses near our bizarre intersection, including two gas stations, six restaurants, a beer joint, two liquor stores, a pharmacy, boating suppliers, two dry cleaners, two nurseries and a florist. And there are four schools, a public library and a new county fire station.

There are over 3,900 homes and three assisted-living residences. Victor Haven and Bay Ridge Gardens, with 198 rent-assisted units, are near the intersection.

The Bermuda Triangle stretches from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Bermuda and then to Miami. Time warps, sea monsters, compass magnetic anomalies and reverse gravity fields live there.

The Triangle has bitten the Navy and the Air Force.

On Dec. 5, 1945, a squadron of five Navy Avenger torpedo bombers left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to practice bombing runs. The entire squadron disappeared. The PBY Catalina seaplane that searched for them that same day disappeared. The Navy said the pilots, according to some, “could have flown to Mars.”

In 1977, two Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers collided in the same area and disappeared.

In our own Triangle, cars and trucks hit utility poles, stop traffic in all directions and paralyze the Neck and Eastport for hours. Fires at electrical transformers force residents to detour through muddy grass fields to get back on the road and head home. Car washes burn. School buses break down or get stuck in the grass trying to leave the library parking lot.

There is gunfire, too. A woman shot at the Shell station was transported to Prince George’s Hospital Center’s trauma unit in serious condition. Shots were fired through a kitchen window in Bay Ridge Gardens.

Deer race across the roads and eat our gardens. During mating season, a lovesick deer charged a male doctor riding his bike. One ran into my car, shook his head and darted down a side street.

On April 5, a home heating oil tanker carrying 1,400 gallons of fuel overturned in our bizarre intersection, spilling fuel onto the road. Was the driver speeding? Annapolis police closed the intersection for six hours while the state and city cleaned up the fuel.

A 4-mile backup stretched from Eastport to the intersection, with long backups in all other directions. Business ground to a halt, and residents were stuck at home. Buses couldn’t take students home. Luckily, fire trucks and ambulances didn’t need to get through the intersection.

Can these problems be solved? “Stakeholders” meet and posture, fight with words and leave their pitchforks outside. The results of a meeting are inversely proportional to the number of stakeholders involved. Didn’t the first stakeholder kill Dracula?

Crystal Spring, proposed by Connecticut Yankees, will heighten these problems by bringing apartments, senior care, retail business, a hotel and townhouses — the largest development in Annapolis history. At a minimum, traffic will go from really bad to unbearable. Take a bumper-to-bumper drive to Edgewater. This is the Crystal Spring future.

As W.C. Fields counseled, “There comes a time in the affairs of a man when he must take the bull by the tail and confront the situation.” Who’s first?

John W. Van de Kamp, a former community member of the Capital Gazette editorial board, lives in the Annapolis Neck with his wife; a black Labrador; a yellow canary and deer that eat his wife’s garden.

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