Annapolis, MD- This afternoon, the Comptroller of the State of Maryland, Peter Franchot, posted on his Facebook page that he was sending a letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation(MDOT) urging them to shut the Bay Bridge rehab down for the rest of the year.
The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) began a $27 million deck rehabilitation on the westbound span of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge (US 50/301). As part of the two-year project, the right lane of the westbound span would be closed 24/7 from October to April during fall 2019/spring 2020 and fall 2020/spring 2021.
In a press release sent out in August the MdTA said “Even though traffic volumes are lowest at the bridge during these months, drivers should expect major delays, even during normal conditions, and especially during holidays, traffic incidents and inclement weather,” said MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports. “We’re asking our customers for their patience and understanding and to bear with us during this necessary work to preserve this critical connection between Maryland’s shores.”
Beginning after Labor Day and continuing through Sept. 30, the westbound right lane will be closed continuously during weekdays from 9 a.m. Mondays through 6 a.m. Fridays. The long-term 24/7 right lane closure will occur from Oct. 1, 2019, through April 16, 2020, but will be lifted temporarily during the Thanksgiving holiday. Then from April 16 through May 20, 2020, the westbound right lane again will be closed continuously during weekdays from 9 a.m. Mondays through 6 a.m. Fridays. All lanes will reopen during the summer travel season when traffic volumes significantly increase. The MDTA will repeat the same schedule during fall 2020/spring 2021.
Then the problem came. backups as high as 14 miles became regular occurrences. The Maryland Transportation Authority tried several measures and none appeared to help alleviate the problem. The first step was to implement cashless tolling at the Bay Bridge from noon to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays through the duration of the project. With all tolls collected electronically, cash drivers will move through the toll plaza without stopping. Cash drivers will still get the $4 rate and will be sent a statement in the mail.
Then on Thursdays and Fridays, only under severe backups and weather permitting, MDTA would implement two-way operations allowing drivers to travel eastbound and westbound on the westbound span at reduced speeds of 25 to 35 mph. Two-way operations would provide three lanes eastbound and one lane westbound for short periods of time to reduce the backups.
None of this worked as back-ups and wind restrictions wracked the Bridge over the weekend of Oct. 4-6, 2019. Franchot’s letter can be seen below. We will bring you any updates from the MdTA and MDOT if provided.