More than 70,000 vehicles per day take Routes 50 and 301 across the current bridge which links Sandy Point on the Western Shore with Kent Island on the Eastern Shore.
A new bridge over the Chesapeake Bay could begin on the Western Shore anywhere between Harford County and St. Mary’s County, according to maps of potential new bridges created by the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Federal Highway Administration.
The maps, part of the Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study, show options for bridge sites spanning either side of the Chesapeake Bay. On the bay’s Western Shore, two potential sites begin in Harford County; three are in Baltimore County; five are in Anne Arundel County — including a span alongside the existing bridge; three sit in Calvert County; and one is in St. Mary’s County.
On the Eastern Shore, a bridge could cross through or land in Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester or Somerset counties.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced the $5 million environmental impact study in 2016 to weigh possible new locations for a third Chesapeake Bay crossing. Results of the study, the first conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, are expected to be released next year.
John Sales, a spokesman for the MdTA, said in an email the maps being circulated are “pre-decisional.”
”The MDTA is working toward formal presentations of the proposed alternatives and that is scheduled to happen this spring,” Sales said in an email.
He declined to comment further on the selection process for a new bridge site.
The two spans of the current crossing on Routes 50 and 301, formally known as the Gov. William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, stretch from Sandy Point on the Western Shore to Kent Island on the Eastern Shore. The original bridge was built in 1952 and was joined by a second span in 1973.
The existing structures accommodate more than 70,000 vehicles per day and are expected to remain structurally sound for nearly another 50 years. But if traffic levels grow as projected, the state says, they could see daily 13-mile backups as soon as 2040.
The new span could cost up to $10 billion, MdTA executive director Kevin Reigrut told the Baltimore Sun last year.
A post on Del. Robin Grammer’s Facebook page received more than 500 comments when he shared links to the maps. Grammer, a Baltimore County Republican, said he’s concerned about the two potential crossings that could land on rural peninsulas in his District 6.
“These would more than likely totally destroy the nature of the communities,” Grammer said. “For my community leaders, there’s nothing that they’re going to accept that the state is going to put on the table to make them accept this.”
Two bills related to a potential new bridge have been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly. Similar to the law that protects Eastern Shore counties from bridge development by allowing legislators to veto such projects, one bill would require the consent of Anne Arundel County legislators to build a new Chesapeake Bay bridge affecting that county. Another bill would extend that provision to the entire state.
Open houses to take public comment on the Bay Crossing Study scheduled for this winter have been pushed back to spring, according to MdTA’s website, because the agency’s federal partners in the project were “unavailable to attend coordination meetings and provide reviews needed” ahead of the public meetings due to the federal government shutdown earlier this year. New dates for the open houses have not yet been set.