It’s that time of year when everybody wants to get across the Bay Bridge, but absolutely no one wants to face the traffic.
So this week’s announcement probably won’t be received well on either side of the bridge: a continuous lane closure that will last six months, and another six-month closure a year later.
The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) announced Tuesday it will begin a large-scale deck rehabilitation on the westbound span of the US 50/301 Bay Bridge. The $27 million project will take two years, and result in 24/7 lane closures for six months at a time.
Starting right after Labor Day, the westbound span’s right lane will be closed continuously during weekdays from 9 a.m. Mondays through 6 a.m. Fridays.
Then, beginning in October, the right lane will be closed around the clock. it will be unusable until April, with just one exception: a temporary opening during the Thanksgiving travel holiday. From mid-April to mid-May of 2020, the westbound right lane again will be closed continuously during weekdays from 9 a.m. Mondays through 6 a.m. Fridays, but open on weekends.
The bridge will reopen fully for 2020’s peak summer travel season, and then repeat the same schedule from fall 2020 to spring 2021.
“Even though traffic volumes are lowest at the bridge during these [off-season] months, drivers should expect major delays, even during normal conditions, and especially during holidays, traffic incidents and inclement weather,” said MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports. “We’re asking our customers for their patience and understanding and to bear with us during this necessary work to preserve this critical connection between Maryland’s shores.”
Two-way traffic also won’t be an option during the 24/7 lane closures, because as MDTA explains, “Concrete barriers will be in place with reduced lane widths. The MDTA will use two-way traffic for emergencies only. ”
During the high-volume summer months, the approaches to the Bay crossing back up for miles, sometimes in the double digits.
In recent years, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has gotten more serious about exploring an additional Chesapeake Bay crossing, ordering a $5 million MDTA study to scout possible locations for a second bridge. The results of that study were expected to wrap up in the winter of 2020. Read more on the study first reported in Bay Bulletin 18 months ago.
With any possible second Bay crossing still many years from reality, Maryland is investing in making the current Bay Bridge last.
The deck replacement project is fully funded by tolls. Work also includes making deck repairs, sealing the bridge deck and replacing existing lane-use signal gantries and steel rail posts. The project should be complete in August 2021.
-Meg Walburn Viviano