Gov. Hogan orders study for third Bay Bridge span
Special from the Star Democrat
— The Maryland Transportation Authority will start a $5 million study this fall to explore options and potential funding for a new Chesapeake Bay crossing.
Gov. Larry Hogan, who ordered the study, made the announcement in Anne Arundel County on Tuesday with the Bay Bridge as his backdrop.
“Whether you live in areas close to the bridge and travel to and from the Eastern Shore for work, whether you’re a farmer, a vacationer, a business owner, Marylanders from all across the state depend on being able to cross the Chesapeake Bay,” Hogan said.
The first span of the Bay Bridge — officially named the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge — was built in 1952 and connects travelers passing through Anne Arundel county to Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore, and vice versa. The three westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes see high volumes of traffic, especially on weekends during the summer months.
“It’s no secret that traffic backs up along Route 50
during peak hours during the summer months,” Hogan said. “Hours that could be spent with your family or at work or doing things you enjoy are instead spent stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.”
A study completed last year found that the current bridge structures can be safely maintained through preservation and maintenance until 2065, when the two-lane bridge would be 113 years old and the threelane bridge would be 92 years old.
Traffic flow was also included in the study. The analysis looked at the Route 50/301 corridor from Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis to the split at Queenstown.
It found that without added capacity on the highway and at the bridge, during summer months the daily traffic in the eastbound lane could back up to 13 miles by 2040. It also found that during summer months the daily westbound traffic could back up to three miles, and 14 miles on Sundays, when vacationers typically drive back from the Eastern Shore, by 2040.
Even during non-summer months, there would be eastbound queues of up to a mile on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, according to the analysis. On particularly congested weekends in the summer, traffic in the westbound lane of Route 50 has backed up into Talbot County.
Hogan said the study, a Tier 1 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study, is the first phase of a full NEPA study. It will allow the state to narrow down the options and identify a potential location for a new Chesapeake Bay crossing and to explore financing options.
The $5 million study will include traffic engineering and environmental analysis, cost-per-mile estimates and procurement options, and economic and land use studies, Hogan said. It could take up to 48 months to complete, he said, “but it is the first critical step needed in order to move forward on addressing the long-range issue of future traffic congestion for the Bay Bridge.”
Queen Anne’s County commissioners were pleased with Hogan’s announcement.
But, Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran said the county would like to see the full NEPA study funded within the next year or two.
Moran said that he’s ecstatic the process has started, “but we as a county feel that the entire study needs to be funded to move this process forward in a timely manner” because “dooms day” is coming the next six or eight years.
“In six to eight years, it’s not going to be a happy place to be,” Moran said.
The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners wrote to Hogan and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn last year, stating the situation with traffic on Route 50 on Kent Island can only get worse.
Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Steve Wilson said the traffic situation is going to be “progressively destructive to the county,” and that “there’s no remedy, except the remedy of getting something down.”
Wilson said he wanted to see action, not more studies about the Bay Bridge and “at least the governor’s act gets us on the road to getting something accomplished.”