After back-to-back weekends of traffic flowing from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge onto Anne Arundel County roadways, the County Council wants an almost completed federal study on how to alleviate the backups to start over.
The council passed a resolution, which does not affect the process, on Monday in opposition to the completion of the $5 million study conducted to find a solution to the traffic congestion on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The study by the Maryland Transportation Authority began in 2016, the final environmental impact statement and record of decision are scheduled to be completed this winter. The report provides three different possible locations for a new span of the bridge — one through Pasadena, one through Edgewater, and one through Annapolis next to the existing bridge — as well as a no-build option.
Gov. Larry Hogan has said the only option he would accept to alleviate the traffic congestion is adding the third span next to the existing bridge.
Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler, R-Arnold, said what was being studied was too narrow in scope and didn’t take into consideration the approaching corridor’s infrastructure and the impact on residents when completing daily activities like running errands, picking up kids from school and returning home from work.
“Most residents of the fifth district know all too well what a weather event, police activity, a disabled vehicle or an accident on the Bay Bridge or the approaching corridors can have on the ability to complete daily activities,” Fiedler said. “These incidents can leave people stranded for hours.”
County Executive Steuart Pittman has expressed his opposition to the study most recently on Midday, a WYPR radio show hosted by Tom Hall. Peter Baron, director of government relations for the county, said at Monday night’s council meeting that county government remains committed to addressing the needs of residents affected by the traffic jams.
“There has been town halls, Councilwoman Fiedler joined the county executive for a town hall expressing some concerns with how this study has been crafted,” Baron said.
Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, was not involved with the resolution but said the study is looking at a closed system and expressed some concerns that the Maryland Transportation Authority, which maintains the bridge, is not considering infrastructure entering and exiting the bridge.
“They’re looking at the capacity of the existing bridge and the capacity of the new bridge and what traffic that might alleviate and no one is really looking at what happens immediately off the bridge,” Haire said.
She continued saying that the study only takes into account traffic flowing from one side of the bridge, but people crossing the bridge are traveling to and from a number of different directions.
“I think asking them to reconsider the needs and purpose statement makes a lot of sense and to really make sure that they’re looking at not just traffic on the bridge and what we can do to alleviate that, but look at the whole corridor before and afterwards and really come up with an infrastructure solution that addresses everything,” Haire said.
Sharing photos of traffic jams along the corridor on June 11, Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien, D-Annapolis, said the traffic jams in the city limits that day were caused by only a traffic incident and bad weather.
“You would think this is the kind of traffic that you might see during a football game but this was traffic from an incident on Route 50 and it was completely backed up,” Rodvien said. “It started one in the afternoon, or maybe even earlier, and went through rush hour.”
Councilwoman Sarah Lacey, D-Jessup, said the county is overdependent on individual transportation via car and the traffic jams will continue to be a problem until the county finds a way to have less cars on the road.
“We’re not investing in local transportation, mass transportation, with buses, with light rail, with those other solutions to the degree that it would actually make a difference,” Lacey said. “Until we get cars off the road, we’re always going to have this problem.”
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The resolution was adopted with a 6-1 vote. Lacey was the only council member who voted against it citing lack of support from her colleagues when she previously introduced a resolution relating to the proposed magnetic levitation train in the northwestern part of the county.