Flush with transportation money from a recent increase in the state's gas tax, Gov. Martin O'Malley will visit the Eastern Shore Friday to announce more than $150 million in road projects in that region -- including the long-sought replacement of the Dover Bridge on the Choptank River.
During an appearance at the bridge, the governor will also roll out road projects that include a $52 million new interchange at U.S. 301 and Route 304 at Centreville in Queen Anne's County and $42 million for the next phase of the widening of Route 404 -- the primary road for Marylanders heading to the Delaware beaches.
Especially important to Middle Eastern Shore residents is the $50 million the governor will allocate to begin construction next summer on the Dover Bridge, a narrow two-lane span that connects Talbot and Caroline counties on Route 331. Two previous governors had announced plans to replace the deteriorating bridge, which has been considered obsolete for decades, but local residents are still waiting.
The bridge is designed to swing open like a gate to let boat traffic on the Choptank, but state highway officials say the aging mechanisms are prone to breakdowns that can lead to miles-long traffic backups or force drivers to take detours of 30-45 minutes.
The replacement bridge will be elevated 48 feet above the water so that it will not need to open to let boats pass, and unlike the current structure it will have shoulders beside the two 12-foot lanes.
According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, the new Eastern Shore projects are expected to create 1,900 jobs while improving traffic flow and safety. The administration said it can move forward with the projects as a result of passage of this year's Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act, which increased the gas tax for the first time in two decades.
The act -- opposed by most Eastern Shore lawmakers -- raised the tax by 3.5 cents, to 27 cents, on July 1, and will continue to increase it in phases over the next three years.
The Eastern Shore event is one in a series of transportation announcements O'Malley has made around the state since passage of the law.