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Bay Bridge to get $500,000 worth of safety signs

Turn on your headlights. Congestion ahead. Do not tailgate.

By the end of this year, $500,000 in Maryland toll revenue will be spent installing large signs with those and other safety messages on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The funding will cover manufacturing and installation of the signs, many of which will be electronic, said MdTA officials, who outlined the improvements Thursday before members of the Senate budget and taxation subcommittee on public safety, transportation and environment.

The half-million in funding is part of $300 million the MdTA has pledged to spend on upgrades to the bridge in the next six years, including painting, upgrading the bridge's decks and suspension cables, and conducting a "Bay Bridge Life Cycle Cost Analysis."

"As the MDTA continues to preserve and improve our facilities, our top priority remains the safety of our customers and employees," said MdTA Executive Director Bruce Gartner in a statement. "Through rigorous inspections, repairs, maintenance and enforcement, we can ensure the integrity of our vital infrastructure and the safety of those who travel it."

Cheryl Sparks, a MdTA spokeswoman, said installation of the signage will be conducted during "non-peak periods" and will not impact traffic.

The signs will warn drivers on the bridge of their current speed; that their headlights must be turned on; of impending curves; of the bridge's 40 mph speed limit; of any congestion ahead; and that tailgating is prohibited.

Last summer, safety on the bridge received renewed attention after a crash involving a tractor trailer forced a vehicle over a barrier and into the water. The driver, who survived the fall, was able to escape her vehicle under water and swim to nearby pilings.

The incident prompted prominent legislators and organizations, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski and AAA, to successfully call for an investigation into the incident by the National Transportation Safety Board.

In a preliminary report, the NTSB found the truck's driver was distracted. A final report has not been issued.

Sparks said the new signage was not funded as a result of the crash or the NTSB report.

"MDTA analyzes crash data annually and these safety enhancements for the Bay Bridge were already in the works," she said in an email.

krector@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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