Earthquake causes Baltimore traffic congestion, transit delays

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Commuters experienced delays on roads, bridges and transit systems around the state as Marylanders felt the effect of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia Tuesday, but most of the disruptions were clearing up by late afternoon.

Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said from his cellphone outside the evacuated department headquarters in Hanover that service on the MARC and light rail were suspended immediately after the quake. The subway and light rail had reopened by about 3:30 p.m.


MARC train service out of Washington's Union Station resumed shortly after 4 p.m. on the Penn and Brunswick lines, and Camden Line service was expected to start up shortly afterward.

The worst disruption to the transit system had nothing to do with the quake. The light rail line was closed between Timonium and Hunt Valley after a two-vehicle collision at Shilling and McCormick roads caused damage to a high-pressure water hydrant and flooded the tracks about 3:50 p.m. The Maryland Transit Administration set up a bus to carry riders to Hunt Valley.


The Maryland Transportation Authority's toll facilities remained open with the exception of the Nice Bridge on U.S. 301 at the Potomac River in Southern Maryland. Authority spokeswoman Teri Moss said that bridge was closed because it was closest to the epicenter. She said it remained closed for several hours because of the time it took to get inspectors to the tip of Charles County. It reopened at 4:40 p.m.

Moss said all of the authority's facilities are being inspected overnight. She said the authority will periodically slow traffic and close lanes so crews could perform those inspections, but all facilities are expected to be operating normally by the morning rush hour Wednesday.

Valerie Burnette Edgar, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, said there had been no closings of state roads. She said the highway agency had immediately dispatched inspectors to critical facilities, particularly long and tall bridges. Inspectors were also taking a look at overhead signs and lights, but no problems had been detected as of about 4 p.m.

Burnette Edgar said motorists were running into congestion on the Beltway and other roads as many commuters apparently decided to head home early.

"We are seeing what appears to be an early rush hour — similar to when it snows," she said.

Two SHA bridge were closed to marine traffic — on Route 213 over the Sassafras River between Kent and Cecil counties and the Benedict Bridge over the Patuxent River on Route 261 in Southern Maryland.

Jonathan Dean, a spokesperson for BWI-Marshall Airport, said the airport was open with normal flight operations.

Southwest Airlines said flights were not affected by the earthquake, but passengers may see some intermittent delays along the East Coast.


"Everything is fine for our operations," said the spokesperson. "All employees and customers are accounted for. We're up and running."

Richard Scher, a spokesman for the Port of Baltimore, said work there continued uninterrupted, though a cracked beam was found in a warehouse shed at the Dundalk marine Terminal.

Baltimore Sun editor Michelle Deal-Zimmerman contributed to this article.