Kent Island traffic woes are going to get worse
I want to share with the citizens of Queen Anne’s County, and anyone that travels Route 50 from the Bay Bridge to 404, what I, as a Queen Anne’s County Commissioner, and my colleagues have been working on for the past two years with our traffic issues.
The Bay Bridge and contra flow:
I have been a County Commissioner for over three and a half years, and one of my first attempts at traffic issues was the policy of contra flow on the westbound Bay Bridge. Contra flow is when the left lane is closed to traffic going west and opened to traffic going east. This gives us three lanes moving east during the evening rush hour and on Saturday mornings during the summer months. However, this process is not followed when there is rain or high winds for safety purposes.
The wind policy is fairly new, and it needs to be revisited. As far as the rain is concerned, here are my issues with that. Let’s go back to Friday night, July 28. It was raining all day and contra flow was never (instituted). The backup began around lunch time and ran past midnight. A 9.5-mile backup was sustained for over four hours past Annapolis; I know, I was stuck in it.
In the past, I suggested closing down the middle lane of the westbound bridge to all traffic as a buffer lane for safety so we could open up contra flow. I was told no because for emergency services on the Eastern Shore they did not want a backup on Kent Island.
So let’s say we keep that policy for now but give all of the commuters some hope and close the center lane westbound for a buffer around 7 or 8 p.m. so that you could open up contra flow. This allows westbound rush hour to dissipate, we have a buffer lane for safety, and commuters can now go to the mall, a movie, dinner, anything but sit in a 9-mile backup. Commuters could see it was raining but know after 8 p.m. there would be three lanes and maybe we have less vehicles clogging all of the side streets on the Broadneck peninsula and we all can keep our sanity.
For the record I got on the Bay Bridge that Friday night around 11 p.m. and there was not enough westbound traffic to fill one lane.
Milling and paving westbound 50 from the Kent Narrows to the Bay Bridge starting Monday night, July 31:
Starting Monday night (July 31) two lanes westbound will be closed at 7 p.m. to set up for night work to mill and pave Route 50 west from the Kent Narrows to the Bay Bridge. I voiced my objections to this at a Bay Bridge Reconstruction Advisory Group meeting, asking this project be moved to September and October. My answer was: due to the asphalt mix we are using we (the state) need 50 degrees minimum overnight. I looked up the weather for Kent Island and found that it does not go below 50 degrees at night until November. So, why are going to inconvenience so many commuters traveling through Kent Island? We all know that Route 18 could possibly be bumper to bumper until after 11 p.m. The citizens of Queen Anne’s County, more specifically Kent Island, will need to be home by 7 p.m. and stay home, because traffic may be so heavy westbound you dare not leave your home for fear of not getting back in a timely manner.
Sunday Night Backups:
Lastly those Sunday night backups westbound at the Bay Bridge. We all know they are intermittent, but they seem to be occurring more frequently. Again, with the same results for the citizens of Kent Island, if you leave your home and travel to the Narrows or anywhere east you have to deal with an uncertainty of when you may be able to get home.
Kent Island also has to deal with beach commuters jumping off of Route 50 and clogging all of our side streets, making the situation even worse for our citizens and our emergency services.
Two years ago I laid out a plan for Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation. I proposed closing Route 50 west down to one lane right before the light at Route 404. This would only be done if Route 50 backed up to the Castle Marina exit. This is the exit that starts the mass jumping of vehicles onto Route 18 and our side streets. Remember there is only one way onto Kent Island and one way off. East of 404 there is about 13 Westbound miles until you get to Easton and about 600 people live along that stretch of Route 50 with plenty of ways to leave their homes and come back. Not so for the citizens in lower Queen Anne’s County, about 35,000 of them.
So, my question to the state is: what does it matter if you are in a 10-mile backup in the woods from 404 to Easton or at the Bay Bridge. It matters to 35,000 people, our emergency services, and our businesses.
The state calls this traffic metering, and I brought it up again at last year’s meeting and again this February. So far, we have gotten some message boards at four exits telling commuters to stay on 50. Would you listen to that or what your app on your phone is telling you? I am hearing rumors they are looking into traffic metering, I hope so.
Oh and remember my contra flow excuse I was given? I was told no because for emergency services on the Eastern Shore they did not want a backup on Kent Island. Well, that doesn’t seem to work here because no one is concerned about backups on Kent Island on Sunday nights. So our traffic woes continue, and I will wait until another time to tell you the bad news about 404’s completion and the Delaware 301 bypass and what that means for commuters going over the Bay Bridge.
One last thing, I am the County’s liaison to the Queen Anne’s Drug Free Coalition, and we have made 4 by 8 signs to place around the county showing heroin overdoses and deaths year to date. We are trying to keep our citizens conscious of this terrible epidemic and hope to save lives with these signs. I sent three letters to state officials asking to place a sign on Kent Island right when you get off the Bay Bridge before the Route 8 exit. Over 84 percent of the county’s work force cross the Bay Bridge to work. What better way to get our message in front of so many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters to help keep someone from becoming a statistic? The Governor has called a state of emergency on this epidemic, I think that should be all it takes. I was told “no” we could not put a sign up.
I feel it is important that our citizens know we are doing everything we can to solve some of these issues.
JAMES J. MORAN, Queen Anne’s County Commissioner, At-Large
JAMES J. MORAN