HANOVER, MD (November 19, 2021) – With Marylanders expected to take to roadways, airways, and transitways this Thanksgiving in some of the largest numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is urging everyone to practice safety and courtesy as they journey via Maryland’s highways, airports, and transit services. Throughout the holiday season, MDOT is taking steps to safely deliver people as well as packages – supporting the nation’s supply chain and helping goods flow to stores and homes through the Port of Baltimore and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
“After a holiday season last year that included safety and travel restrictions, we’re looking forward to being together again with family and friends to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. “Our MDOT family hopes everyone will keep in mind simple travel rules – like using seat belts and watching your speed when you drive, and being careful and attentive whether you’re traveling by car, bus, train, or airplane. Following these practices will help us all get to our holiday destinations safely.”
AAA is predicting this year’s Thanksgiving holiday will see 53.4 million people traveling nationwide. That’s a 13% increase from 2020, with volumes approaching 95% of 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The biggest jump is anticipated in air travel, expected to increase 80% in the AAA forecast compared to last year.
In Maryland, traffic has risen steadily in recent months. For the second week of November, highway traffic across the state was 95% of pre-pandemic levels, and truck traffic showed even greater resurgence: 19%abovepre-pandemic levels, reflecting industry response to consumer demand for goods. Air travel at BWI Marshall has returned to nearly 75% of pre-pandemic levels, with even greater numbers expected over Thanksgiving.
All travelers are reminded that face coverings are still required on public transportation, including Maryland’s rail and bus vehicles, on commercial flights, and at BWI Marshall. Private businesses may have their own policies. As you shop locally, you may encounter establishments where face coverings are required.
DELIVERING PEOPLE, AND PACKAGES, FOR THE HOLIDAYS
While focused on the safe travel of our most precious commodity – people – Maryland’s transportation network plays a critical role in the state’s economic vitality. This holiday season, the Port of Baltimore, state highways, airports, and rail lines are reinforcing Maryland’s supply chain, serving as conduits for millions of items intended for retail and e-commerce consumers.
“Moving goods swiftly and efficiently through the Port of Baltimore, BWI Marshall, and across our highway and freight network is a point of pride for our entire MDOT team,” Secretary Slater said. “We know the gifts and supplies headed for stores and homes will make the holidays special, but we also know those deliveries are critical to giving Maryland a prosperous new year.”
The Port of Baltimore has not been impacted by supply chain issues affecting other U.S. ports. In fact, the Port welcomed two new container services from Southeast Asia and India totaling 21 ships due to congestion at other ports, and since the middle of last year served 24 “ad hoc” ships – vessels diverted here that were not on a scheduled call. For the first nine months of 2021, the Port has seen general cargo rise 9%, cars and light trucks increase 13%, and farm and construction machinery up 30% compared to the same period last year.
BWI Marshall Airport also has experienced growth in cargo activity. Total cargo moving through the airport in the fiscal year 2021 reached a record 611.4 million pounds, an increase of 11.7% over the previous year. July 2021 marked a record month for cargo transported at BWI Marshall at nearly 56.3 million pounds. BWI Marshall accounts for about 60% of the airport cargo operations in the National Capital Region.
The area’s many distributions, fulfillment, and sorting centers, combined with truck and rail networks and a highly skilled workforce, have contributed to helping the Baltimore region emerge as an e-commerce hub.
ON HIGHWAYS AND THE BAY BRIDGE, AVOID THE HOLIDAY RUSH
Families traveling over the river and through the woods on Maryland highways this Thanksgiving should expect congestion between Tuesday, November 23, and Sunday, November 28. MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) will suspend major lane closures for non-emergency roadwork from 5 a.m. Wednesday, November 24, through 9 a.m. Monday, November 29. Permits to haul large freight on state highways are prohibited from noon Wednesday through 9 a.m. Monday, and no moves of containerized cargo on highways are permitted between 9 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Friday, or between 9 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Monday.
The busiest time on Maryland highways prior to Thanksgiving is expected to be between noon and 6 p.m. Wednesday, with the heaviest volumes expected to be between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. After Thanksgiving, Saturday will be a busy travel day, and traffic will be moderate Sunday, with the busiest period expected between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
MDOT SHA’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART), as well as units from the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), will be on duty to help motorists with breakdowns or incidents. If you must stop for a roadside emergency, remember to first assess the situation. If you are able to remain in your vehicle while help is on the way, stay buckled and face forward. If you must exit your vehicle, stand as far away from your vehicle and the roadway as possible. For live traffic cameras, weather information, and real-time roadway conditions, go to roads.maryland.gov.
Maryland’s toll bridges and roads have also seen a resurgence, with MDTA reporting transactions in early November at 1.2%abovepre-pandemic levels compared to the same time in 2019. At the Bay Bridge, holiday travelers should expect delays from Tuesday, November 23, to Monday, November 29. The best times to travel will be:
- Tuesday, November 23, through Friday, November 26 – before 9 a.m.and after 9p.m., and
- Monday, November 29 – before noonand after 9p.m.
Tuesday, November 23, and Wednesday, November 24 – before 6 a.m. and after 6 p.m.;
Thursday, November 25, through Sunday, November 28 – before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m.; and
Monday, November 29 – before 5 a.m. and after 2 p.m.
Motorists should stay on US 50 on both sides of the bridge to keep local roadways open for first responders and residents. Weather and traffic volumes permitting, the MDTA will implement two-way operations to help alleviate eastbound delays. Please obey overhead lane use control signals. Two-way operations are prohibited during bridge wind warnings/restrictions, fog or precipitation.
All-electronic tolling is in place on the Bay Bridge and all toll roads and bridges statewide. Cash is no longer accepted, and tolls are paid electronically via E-ZPass, Pay-By-Plate or Video Tolling. E-ZPass is the most cost-effective method, saving drivers up to 77% versus Video Tolls. With Video Tolling, a Notice of Toll Due is sent to the vehicle owner under standard Video Toll rates. With Pay-By-Plate, tolls are billed to the driver’s registered credit card, with no need for a transponder or pre-paid deposit. For more details or to sign up for E-ZPass or Pay-By-Plate, go to DriveEzMD.com.
For real-time updates on incidents on Maryland toll roads follow twitter.com/TheMDTA. For 24/7 Bay Bridge traffic information call 1-877-BAYSPAN (1-877-229-7726) or visit baybridge.com. You also can sign up for traffic email/text alerts at https://bit.ly/2Dh9EZn, and follow the MDTA at facebook.com/TheMDTA.
BUCKLE UP, SLOW DOWN: GET HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
All travelers on Maryland highways, bridges, and toll roads share a responsibility to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors safe. Maryland experienced 573 highway fatalities in 2020 – an increase of 7.1% compared to 2019 even though traffic volumes were down as much as 50% during the pandemic. Law enforcement officials also noted a spike in speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors. To help avoid tragedies this holiday season, please remember these simple rules of the road:
- Buckle up.It’s the law. Make sure all passengers, including those in back seats, are using seat belts.
- Slow down.Observe all posted speed limits.
- Drive Sober.Never drive impaired. Make a plan for a sober ride home.
- Pay attention.Avoid distractions such as cell phones. Don’t text and drive.
- Be patient.Travel during off peak hours and allow extra time for unexpected delays.
- Share the road.Be on the lookout for bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Be prepared.In an emergency, drivers with cell phones can dial #77 to reach Maryland State Police.
Also, remember to MOVE OVER for emergency vehicles. Maryland law requires drivers to move over when approaching an emergency, transportation, service, and utility vehicle or tow truck with red, yellow, or amber flashing lights. If you cannot safely move over, slow down to a safer speed.
MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office will share safety messages on social media throughout the holidays as part of itsBe The Drivercampaign, urging travelers to always buckle up, reduce speeds, avoid distractions and NEVER drive impaired. Law enforcement will be patrolling to stop suspected impaired drivers. In addition to risking injury or death for themselves and others, those driving under the influence risk arrest, jail time, legal costs and fines.
MDOT MVA branch offices and Vehicle Emission Inspection Program (VEIP) stations will be closed Thursday, November 25. Branch offices will reopen Friday, November 26, by appointment only. VEIP testing will also resume November 26 and does not require an appointment. MDOT MVA self-service VEIP kiosks, online services, and 24-hour kiosks will be available through the holiday.?
BWI MARSHALL TRAFFIC EXPECTED TO SEE INCREASE FOR HOLIDAYS
Recovery at BWI Marshall has led the region’s airports, and a robust holiday travel season is expected. While the number of available flights is down compared with 2019, the airport expects to see strong passenger traffic over the Thanksgiving holiday. For October 2021, there were 701,288 departing passengers at BWI Marshall, about 105% higher than October 2020.
Airport passengers are reminded to give themselves plenty of time for parking, airline ticketing and the TSA security screening process. Local motorists should consider using the airport’s upper level, or departures level, roadway to avoid possible traffic congestion when picking up arriving passengers. Airport shuttle bus delays are possible during peak periods throughout the holiday season due to nationwide driver shortages.
The entire BWI Marshall community remains focused on providing healthy, safe travel for customers. As a reminder, federal regulations continue to require face coverings in airports and on commercial flights.
TRANSIT IS A CONVENIENT OPTION FOR THAT SHOPPING, STAYING LOCAL
On Thanksgiving Day, MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) will operate on a modified schedule. CityLink and LocalLink buses, Light RailLink and Metro SubwayLink will follow the Sunday/Holiday schedule, while Commuter Bus will not operate Thanksgiving Day or on Friday, November 26, except for the Bus Route 201, which will operate on the Weekend/Holiday schedule.
MARC Train will not operate on Thanksgiving Day. On Friday, November 26 MARC Train will not operate service on the Camden /Brunswick lines Penn Line service will operate on the “R” schedule.
MobilityLink will not operate subscription rides on Thanksgiving Day. Customers are asked to call the Mobility Call Center at 410-764-8181 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to reschedule Thanksgiving Day rides.
MDOT MTA is focused on delivering reliable, on-time service. Overall ridership has improved to 55% of pre-pandemic levels, with Local Bus ridership now at 65% compared to pre-pandemic.
Transit is a convenient, hassle-free way to travel every day and especially during the holiday season when visiting family and friends and supporting local businesses. With real-time technology and the Transit app it’s easy to know when your bus will arrive. Learn more at www.mta.maryland.gov/transit. MDOT MTA recently introduced new fare options with CharmFlex three- and 10-day passes. These discounted fares provide the best value for riders traveling only a few times per week or on non-consecutive days. Go to www.mta.maryland.gov/charmpass for details.
Check www.mta.maryland.gov for the most up-to-date information, as service schedules will change with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Additionally, the MDOT MTA holiday bus will soon be out on the road spreading holiday cheer.
As a reminder, face coverings are still required, in accordance with federal regulations, for all transit riders regardless of vaccination status.