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Bay Crossing Study is open for public comment this week until May 10

Patricia Lynch, president of the Broadneck Council of Communities, plans to say exactly how she feels about the possibility of a new Chesapeake Bay crossing.

Lynch, a member of the Bay Bridge Reconstruction Advisory Group, will be speaking in person on Wednesday about the study on where a new bay crossing could go and is urging residents to join her.

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The report outlines the three possible crossing locations — one through Pasadena, one through Edgewater, and one through Annapolis next to the existing bridge at Sandy Point — as well as a no-build option. Lynch believes they picked these options because it’s at a narrow part of the bay.

“You got to have the public involved and enough people saying this inexcusable and we don’t want this here,” Lynch said.

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Call-in and in-person sessions began last week for the Bay Crossing Study Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Maryland Transportation Authority is accepting public comments through May 10.

The two in-person public hearings will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis on Wednesday and at the Kent Island American Legion Hall on Thursday. People can register for those meetings online or by calling 1-877-249-8370.

The public also can leave comments at www.baycrossingstudy.com and can also read past comments left over the project’s nearly five-year history.

MDTA and the Federal Highway Administration are holding public hearings to provide the public additional opportunities to review and comment on the study, which has been prepared pursuant to the federally mandated National Environmental Policy Act.

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Last week, residents called in for two sessions that were broadcasted online at baycrossingstudy.com. At the session on Wednesday, there were only five callers. One caller suggested a no-build option and the others suggested other locations be considered like Baltimore, south county and Gibson Island.

Thursday’s session had two callers.

Charles Skinner, a Baltimore resident said he has been driving across the Bay Bridge for over 25 years. He believes more vehicle capacity causes more congestion in traveling. Skinner was in support of adding lanes to the existing Bay Bridge.

“It is most sensible in terms of environmental impact, development density and taxpayers cost,” Skinner said.

Three primary needs were identified for the Tier 1 NEPA Study and are the basis for evaluating corridor alternatives: Adequate Capacity, Dependable and Reliable Travel Times and Flexibility to Support Maintenance and Incident Management in a Safe Manner, according to MDTA.

Lynch wants a more detailed study, but that will have to wait until tier 2.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who initiated the study in 2016, saying it would cost $5 million and would be funded by tolls, has said the third span in Annapolis is the only option he will accept.

“It’s too early to determine construction funding for a new Bay crossing. All MDTA’s projects and services are funded through tolls paid by the customers who use the MDTA’s facilities,” said John Sales, spokesperson for MDTA.

The MDTA is a self-sufficient non-budgeted State agency and receives no money from the State’s General Fund or the Transportation Trust Fund. The MDTA is exclusively financed by toll revenues, and such revenue is reinvested in the operation and maintenance of the toll facilities, according to Sales.

The process is only just beginning, MDTA said in the release. After the final EIS is handed in, and if funding is available, the project will move into the next phase, tier 2, which could take between three and five years to complete, MDTA said.

Tier 1 shrinks down the list of possible 2-mile wide corridors. Tier 2 would deal with the alignment of the crossing in that corridor, evaluate the use of public transportation, look at environmental impacts and consider financing for the project.

Then, once a decision is secured from federal officials, the state would need to get land rights, design and build the bridge.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican whose district includes parts of Baltimore County and the Eastern Shore, said he urged state officials to consider the concerns of the people on the shore who would be the most impacted by the ultimate decision.

“While I don’t support legislative earmarks for any project, whenever a final decision is made by the state, I will work with my colleagues in the delegation to ensure appropriate consideration of federal funding for the project,” he said in a statement released by his office.

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