While state officials consider proposals to relieve traffic crossing the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Larry Hogan said he has already made up his mind.
“There is only one option I will ever accept: adding a third span to our existing Bay Bridge,” Hogan said. “While the federal process requires multiple proposals, the data is indisputable— this option would maximize congestion relief & minimize environmental impact.”
The Maryland Transportation Authority said Tuesday it would bring four options to public hearings this fall, three build options and a “no-build” scenario. One build option calls for a bridge stemming from the Pasadena area, another calls for one off the Mayo Peninsula and the last calls for a third span at the existing bridge site.
While four options are moving forward, in the statement Tuesday authority Executive Director Jim Ports said building at the site of the existing spans would have the most positive impact on traffic. Data from a study shows that option has the best effect on non-summer weekday traffic and summer weekend traffic, the authority said in the statement.
The state has been studying a new bay crossing since 2016, when Hogan called for a study into a third bridge span to address congestion. Residents on the Anne Arundel side of the bridge have complained that they feel trapped in their neighborhoods on weekends when traffic piles up behind the toll plaza.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said Wednesday that he was glad Hogan doesn’t support the Pasadena or Mayo routes. But Pittman doesn’t want a third crossing at the existing site either, saying the government needs to work to get cars off the road, and shouldn’t plan for the opposite.
Pittman said he would like to see more public transit options explored, as well as other changes such as electronic tolling.
Sen. Ed Reilly, a Crofton Republican, put forth legislation during this year’s General Assembly session that would have given Anne Arundel County veto power on bridge projects affecting the county. Reilly had bipartisan support from other county delegates and senators but couldn’t get the legislation through committee. Opponents argued the legislation could make it impossible to make any bridge improvements.
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The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy issued a statement Wednesday calling on the state to aggressively manage the corridor by reducing tolls during off-peak hours, increasing the use of public transit and adding more “contra flow” lanes, in which traffic moves counter to the direction of neighboring lanes (for instance, an eastbound lane opened on the westbound span).
“While costing Maryland residents billions of dollars, a new bridge crossing would dramatically degrade the working landscapes, ecological balance, and overall rural character of the region,” the conservancy said in a statement.
Ahead of the public meetings, the state has published information about the crossing study, including a traffic analysis. Using the Maryland Statewide Travel Demand Model, officials calculated how various options would affect the average daily traffic, both at the existing bridge and at a new bridge.
In 2017, the average daily traffic on the bay bridge for a summer weekend was 118,600, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority. For a non-summer weekday, it was 68,600. Without a new bridge, the state estimates that average will climb to 135,300 on a summer weekend and 84,300 on a non-summer weekday in 2040.
Adding a third span at the existing site would reduce the average on summer weekends by 38,900 and on non-summer weekdays by 23,700.
Adding a Pasadena corridor could reduce summer weekend traffic at the existing bridge by 7,400 vehicles by 2040, but non-summer weekday traffic would still rise 1,000 vehicles above what it was in 2017.
Adding a Mayo corridor would reduce weekday traffic by 500 vehicles, and summer weekend traffic by 14,300 vehicles.