Ho­gan or­ders study for a new bridge across Bay

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com Re­porter Mike Davis also con­trib­uted.

AN­NAPO­LIS — 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 Tues­day, Aug. 30, 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 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 was com­pleted last year called the Bay Bridge Life Cy­cle Cost Anal­y­sis that stated 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 three-lane bridge 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.”

Sen. Steve Her­shey, R36-Up­per Shore, whose district in­cludes Kent Is­land, wrote in an email that ob­tain­ing a fund­ing com­mit­ment for the NEPA study has been a pri­or­ity of his since en­ter­ing the Gen­eral As­sem­bly in 2011.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate Gover­nor Ho­gan real­iz­ing that the is­sues of Bay bridge safety and (con­ges­tion) were not go­ing away. Any ad­di­tional Bay cross­ing is decade away,” Her­shey wrote. “Gover­nor Ho­gan has put us in a po­si­tion to find a so­lu­tion and get that clock started.”

Her­shey wrote that he and oth­ers met with Rahn while at the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties con­fer­ence in Ocean City in mid-Au­gust, when they ex­pressed their con­cerns about the grid­lock on Route 50 and Route 18.

He wrote that they told Rahn that any study of a new Bay cross­ing must also in­clude a com­plete road in­fra­struc­ture anal­y­sis from the bridge to Route 404.

“We also ex­pressed safety con­cerns and po­ten­tial de­layed re­sponse times that the grid­lock could im­pose on our vol­un­teer fire com­pa­nies and first re­spon­ders,” Her­shey wrote. “We need to look at iden­ti­fy­ing Route 18 and the frontage roads as lim­ited ac­cess roads for lo­cal traffic only, even if it’s just dur­ing spe­cific times of the year.”

Her­shey said he ex­pects the so­lu­tion will need the co­or­di­na­tion of the state, the Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Author­ity po­lice, the Eastern Shore del­e­ga­tion and county com­mis­sion­ers. Ho­gan said Tues­day that he will not only co­or­di­nate with coun­ties on the po­ten­tial third bridge span, but the ap­pro­pri­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal agen­cies, too.

“We also need bet­ter a bet­ter strat­egy dur­ing wind and weather con­di­tions dur­ing com­mut­ing hours,” Her­shey wrote. “We can­not have a sit­u­a­tion, short of an ac­ci­dent di­rectly on the bridge, where we don’t have three west­bound lanes open dur­ing af­ter­noon com­mut­ing hours.”

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.

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