FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 29, 2019
HOGAN ADMINISTRATION MOVES FORWARD WITH PLAN TO ACCELERATE BAY BRIDGE WORK
Extra Crews to Work Around The Clock
Crews to Work Through Thanksgiving Week
Developing Aggressive Timeline for All-Electronic Tolling
Tourism Office Promoting ‘Go Early, Stay Late’ Offers
BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) announced today, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Commerce, that it is moving forward on a series of steps to shorten the duration of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge rehabilitation project and mitigate the traffic impact on commuters, visitors, and local residents. These actions come in response to Governor Larry Hogan’s directive earlier this month to expedite the project.
“My most important responsibility is the safety of Maryland citizens,” said Governor Hogan, at the October 16 meeting of the Board of Public Works. “Not taking action is not an option. But I am demanding that every effort must be taken to complete this project as soon as possible. And I am demanding that all the experts look at every possible solution that is feasible.”
“The safety of Marylanders is our top priority every day, which is exactly why we are moving forward on this urgent project,” said MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports. “Governor Hogan has directed us to look at every possible solution to expedite the project, and we are confident that these actions will allow us to make these repairs as quickly as we can and limit the impacts on local residents. We especially appreciate the input of the community, including Queen Anne’s County leaders, as we move forward with this project.”
Project Overview. MDTA is in the process of replacing the bridge deck surface in the right lane of the westbound span. This work includes making deck repairs, sealing the bridge deck, and replacing existing lane-use signal gantries and steel rail posts.
The deck surface of the right lane has reached the end of its service life and is severely deteriorated. This presents a number of safety risks, given the frequency of patching and emergency holding patches. In one section of the lane, 75% of the area is patched and deteriorated. In much of the lane, half of the area is patched and deteriorated. Delaying this needed work would turn a deck overlay into a more involved, lengthier, and much more costly full-depth re-decking.
Extra Crews to Work Around the Clock. Going forward, the work will be done on both day and night shifts, seven days a week, using multiple crews.
Crews will be making repairs simultaneously in multiple work zones in different areas of the lane. Additionally, crews will install jersey barrier and cones along the full length of the lane so that all four work zones can be up and running as soon as possible. The MDTA and its contractor are also exploring alternate milling methods and overlay materials that may speed up the project further.
Two-way traffic operations will be reserved for emergency situations and severe backups only. This will ensure that crews can begin night work like hydro-milling and concrete overlay placement, which require at least two closed lanes, as early as possible.
Cashless tolling on Thursdays and Fridays will continue to start at noon, but end at 8 pm instead of 10 pm. This small change will allow crews to implement two-way operations on the eastbound span earlier—traffic volumes permitting—and close the westbound span for overnight hydro-milling and concrete placement. MDTA will continue to evaluate traffic patterns and may adjust the timeframe for cashless tolling during the deck project.
Crews to Work Through Thanksgiving Week. As part of this commitment to work around the clock and expedite the project, the contractor will now work through Thanksgiving week. This approach has the unanimous support of the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners. According to MDTA engineers, significant time savings will be achieved because crews are not only gaining the week to work, but they will not have to stop work progress weeks ahead of the holiday and spend time preparing the right lane for traffic, removing all the jersey barriers, and restriping the lanes.
Drivers should expect major delays in both directions throughout the holiday period. While traffic volumes start to build as early as Tuesday that week, Wednesday through Friday are expected to be the heaviest travel days eastbound, while Thursday through Sunday are expected to be the heaviest days for westbound traffic.
Tourism Office Promotes ‘Go Early, Stay Late’ Offers. To help spread out travel to and from the Eastern Shore during the holiday season, the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism is coordinating new offers to encourage travelers to ‘Go Early, Stay Late,’ including enhancing its ‘Home for the Holidays’ initiative.
“In light of current Bay Bridge travel patterns, we are working with our tourism partners on the Eastern Shore to encourage travelers to ‘Go Early, Stay Late,’” said Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “The Maryland Office of Tourism’s ‘Home for the Holidays’ initiative includes hotel packages and discounts in the Eastern Shore region, and promotion of events as a way to continue to draw visitors, while providing incentives for traveling during off-peak times.”
Moving to All-Electronic Tolling. The MDTA is developing an aggressive construction timeline to implement all-electronic (cashless) tolling, similar to the phased approach MDTA is using at the Thomas J. Hatem (US 40) and Francis Scott Key (I-695) bridges, as soon as possible.
First, workers will demolish specific toll booths to create wider lanes within the plaza and will install overhead tolling gantries to implement cashless tolling full-time next year. Next, additional construction will take place to demolish the entire toll plaza, reconstruct the roadway and fill-in the toll collector access tunnel.
Improving the Flow and Direction of Traffic. The MDTA is working with the MDOT State Highway Administration (SHA) and the Maryland State Police to improve the flow and direction of local traffic. SHA has dispatched additional CHART vehicles to address incidents on US 50 and parallel routes during periods of peak traffic. MDTA and MDOT SHA teams also met on October 21 to discuss additional traffic and incident management coordination.
Balanced Approach to Westbound and Eastbound Traffic. The MDTA is working with Queen Anne's and Anne Arundel County leaders to negotiate a solution and find a balanced approach to westbound and eastbound traffic approaching the bridge.
At an October 21 meeting with Queen Anne’s County elected officials and members of Governor Hogan’s staff, MDTA officials discussed the current status of the project and sought input from local leaders about options to shorten the project duration and support a balanced traffic-management approach. A meeting was also held with Anne Arundel County transportation officials to discuss updated information and receive local feedback. Further discussions will occur in the coming weeks.
Redoubled Efforts to Engage Local Residents. In addition to meetings with county officials, MDTA officials attended the recent Bay Crossing Study Open Houses in Severn, Stevensville, and last night in Annapolis to hear citizens’ concerns and share information about the deck project. On October 16, MDTA’s Acting Chief Engineer presented to the citizen-based Bay Bridge Reconstruction Advisory Group (BBRAG), and the Chief Operating Officer presented to the Broadneck Council of Communities on October 24.
MDTA has responded to hundreds of questions via social media, email, and phone calls, and has created a new notification system for commercial-vehicle operators. For the latest on Bay Bridge traffic, call 1-877-BAYSPAN (229-7726) or visit baybridge.com. To sign up for email/text alerts or to view real-time traffic camera images on MDTA roadways, visit mdta.maryland.gov. For updates on major incidents follow the MDTA on Twitter at twitter.com/TheMDTA. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheMDTA.