MDTA animation shows what drivers will experience approaching the Bay Bridge, including horizontal gates blocking the closed lane.

VIDEO: Bay Bridge Automated Lane Closures Ready to Launch

While Maryland studies different aspects of building a new Bay Bridge span to solve the traffic nightmare that occurs most weekends, there’s a more immediate change coming that could help streamline things a bit on the bridge.

Starting this fall, the Maryland Transportation Authority will (MDTA) will use automatically-deployed swing gates to close lanes.

Currently, when lanes have to be closed for crashes and other incidents on the bridge, construction, or two-way operations, maintenance crews must use trucks to manually drop barrels and cones down the line.

Under the new automated lane closure system (ALCS), a system of “integrated overhead lane-use signals, dynamic message signs, horizontal swing gates, and illuminated pavement markers” will be used to close lanes. The red gates will be stored on the median and when triggered, will swing across the lane blocking traffic from travel in the lane. With the new system, crews can remotely close lanes and reopen them on both the Eastern and Western shores.

MDTA says not only does this keep maintenance workers safer, it gives customers earlier warning that there’s an incident up ahead—starting 2.5 miles before the Western Shore crossover and 1.5 miles before the Eastern Shore crossover. This means drivers can begin moving into the correct lanes sooner, helping to prevent secondary crashes when there’s a problem ahead.

The ALCS will be in place sometime this fall, though transportation leaders aren’t giving a specific launch date yet. When it does launch, there will be a transitional period with manual support as drivers are getting used to the new system.

Watch an animated video below to see what you’ll find approaching the bridge (watch the new gates in action around the 1:30 mark).

The ALCS is one of several new features at the Bay Bridge designed to make traffic run smoother and more safely. Additional work includes constructing a new commercial vehicle weigh station, removing the former toll plaza, and installing overhead gantries for all-electronic toll collection.

-Meg Walburn Viviano