Kent Is­land traf­fic woes are go­ing to get worse

Record Observer - - News -

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


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