Photo: Andrij Bulba

Safer Nice Bridge to be Built Across Potomac River

Travelers hoping to cross the Potomac River between Charles County, Maryland and King George County, Virginia are one step closer to being able to use a wider, less daunting structure. A $400-million-plus contract has just been approved to build a new bridge to replace the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge.

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) has given the green light on a $463 million contract to replace the Nice Bridge, as it’s known by local commuters.

“The project is one of the state’s largest transportation initiatives and will improve mobility, safety, and economic opportunities for southern Maryland, northeastern Virginia and the region,” the MDTA said in a press release.

The current bridge, which connects Newburg, Maryland and Dalghren, Virginia, was built in 1940 as an alternative for drivers wanting to avoid US 1. Measuring in at 1.7 miles, the two-lane (one each way) span is narrow and has been known to cause traffic headaches.

The MDTA estimates about 18,000 vehicles use the bridge each day.

Under the contract, MDTA says Skanska-Corman-McLean (SCM) Joint Venture– a group of firms with local roots– will design and build the replacement, and Virginia will chip in $13 million. The improved span will have four 12-foot-wide lanes and two-foot shoulders that are intended to give a major boost to the bridge’s capacity and safety, the MDTA reports. It will also have cashless tolling.

Pete K. Rahn, MDTA Chairman and Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary, said in a statement that the new bridge will have an immediate impact.

“We’re implementing a major infrastructure project that’s affordable, invests in safety and will improve our citizens’ quality of life today – not years down the road.”

The MDTA expects construction to begin early in the new year and the new bridge to open by 2023. For the mariners who traverse that portion of the Potomac, the MDTA says the new bridge will still be able to accommodate tall vessels.

Once the current bridge is destroyed, the MDTA says some of the leftover materials will be used to create an artificial reef. Bridge designers will work with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to find an optimal spot on the Lower Potomac River.

Laura Adams Boycourt