The bridge construction project that has caused widespread frustration on both sides of the Bay is going to finish before the summer travel season.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that all lanes at the Bay Bridge will be open this summer, and all-electronic tolling will be in place.
“I am pleased to announce that this project will be completed a full year ahead of schedule, and that all lanes on the Bay Bridge will be open by summer of 2020,” said Governor Hogan.
The westbound right lane surface of the Bay Bridge was beyond its service life and could no longer be considered safe. The original deck rehabilitation project was supposed to stretch from September 2019 to May 2020, then stop for the busy beach travel season, then resume for a second winter, from September 2020 to May 2021.
When the redecking project began in September, the traffic impact of bridge lane closures was even worse than transportation leaders expected. At times, backups reached up to 11 miles long on the west side of the bridge. Kent Island residents became fed up with bridge travelers taking shortcuts and tying up their local roads. State Comptroller Peter Franchot even called for the entire project to be shut down and delayed, a move the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) said would only prolong the problem.
In October, Governor Hogan ordered the project placed into overdrive, and contractors put multiple crews on day and night shifts, seven days a week.
On the expedited schedule, all milling work is complete and more than half of the latex modified concrete is placed. After it is done, joints and steel rail posts will be replaced, deck punctures repaired, and then the final steps of taking down the jersey barriers and restriping the lanes.
This winter being relatively mild has helped keep the project on its expedited schedule:
“With warmer temperatures forecasted the week of February 2, the first rapid-set concrete pours will be able to take place during planned overnight closures between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not impact daytime traffic,” says MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports.
As for the transition to all-electronic tolling, the first toll booth on the Anne Arundel County side of the bridge has already been removed. The new eastbound tolling gantry is being installed on the Queen Anne’s County side. between the Bay Bridge and MD Rt. 8.
Will all-electronic tolling in place, no cash will be accepted as payment, and drivers don’t have to stop to pay tolls. Instead, overhead gantries collect tolls by E-ZPass or reading license plates. E-ZPass transponders are now free, and the state encourages everyone to get one in time for this summer’s new tolling system.
–Meg Walburn Viviano