Bay Bridge Update

Posted

Nine months ago, here in the Severna Park Voice, I discussed the challenges surrounding Chesapeake Bay Bridge traffic and state efforts to resolve it. Here is a status update.

Undoubtedly, you are aware of the ongoing two-year $27 million bridge redecking project to repair significant deterioration and patching of the right lane of the westbound span. Delay in repairing the lane is not an option – projections estimate that delay would result in more deterioration, which could take up to five years to repair, to the tune of $200 million.

The lane under repair will remain closed 24/7 until April 2020, as the existing top layer of concrete must be removed down to the steel bars and new concrete laid and cured, and wastewater vacuumed to avoid contaminating the bay.

Each lane of the bridge can accommodate only 1,500 vehicles per hour, so the lane closure can cause major delays. To help alleviate the delays, construction crews are now working around the clock; cashless tolling remains in effect on Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 8:00pm; and the Maryland Transportation Authority has pledged to move toward all electronic tolling and work with local law enforcement and community groups to improve traffic flow. EZ pass usage not only incurs a lower toll, it reduces traffic delays.

An environmental impact study under the National Environmental Policy Act, a study required by the Federal Highway Administration, will commit federal funds to a major project for another bridge across the Chesapeake Bay, and is also moving forward. The Maryland Transportation Authority has narrowed 14 proposed alternative corridors across the bay to just three. Projected improvement to traffic flow as well as other factors like environmental impacts, cost, commuter times, and growth were considered.

All three corridors begin in Anne Arundel County: corridor 6 would utilize Route 100 to Route 301 connecting Pasadena to Rock Hall in Kent County and Centreville in Queen Anne's County. Corridor 7 is the existing Bay Bridge corridor utilizing Route 50/301 between Crofton and Queenstown in Queen Anne's County. Corridor 8 would also use the Route 50/301 beginning in Crofton, but would end in Easton in Talbot County. No-build also remains an option.

I recently met with the Maryland Transportation Secretary, Pete Rahn, to strongly encourage that options outside of Anne Arundel County be considered. Further information about the study can be found at www.baycrossingstudy.com; comments can be sent to info@baycrossingstudy.com; and further open houses regarding the study are planned for fall 2020. I encourage you to join me in demanding that options outside of Anne Arundel County be considered.

Given that all of the proposed corridors originate in Anne Arundel County and that much bridge congestion occurs here, one would hope that Anne Arundel County would have a significant say in whether and where another Bay Bridge span would be located. Sadly, however, that is not the case. Since the early 1970s, no toll bridge, highway or road that affects the Eastern Shore can be constructed without the consent of a majority of the nine Eastern Shore counties (Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester). Therefore, no new Bay Bridge span can be built without the consent of the majority of the Eastern Shore counties, regardless of what Anne Arundel County residents want.

To remedy this, last year I introduced House Bill 212 to include Anne Arundel County on said list of those counties. It died in committee, but I intend to file it again. In the meantime, please share your views and comments at www.baycrossingstudy.com under “Public Involvement/Submit Comments” and keep checking the MDTA's Facebook, Twitter, and website posts for traffic advisories, or call 1-877-BAYSPAN.

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