United States

New Chesapeake Bay Crossing Narrowed to 3 Areas Near Bridge

Maryland narrowed the possibilities for a potential new crossing over the Chesapeake Bay to ease traffic congestion to three areas near the current twin spans of the Bay Bridge, state officials announced Tuesday.

The Maryland Transportation Authority also announced a fourth option of not building a new bay crossing.

Data indicates the three construction proposals are the only ones that sufficiently meet the purpose and need in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, officials said. The proposals narrow the possibilities from 14 that were first considered.

Jim Ports, the executive director of the transportation authority, said while all four proposals are being included for further study, traffic models indicate that building a third crossing near the current bridge "would have the most positive impact on reducing traffic."

That option best relieves congestion at the existing Bay Bridge on both non-summer weekdays and summer weekends, compared to all the others, officials said.

The proposals include: Maryland 100 to US 301, between Pasadena, Rock Hall and Centreville; the existing Bay Bridge corridor, US 50/301 to US 50 between Crofton and Queenstown; and US 50/301 between Crofton and Easton.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said he was surprised to learn Tuesday all three options to build cross through Anne Arundel County.

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"Any of the three options will be severely disruptive to existing communities and sensitive environmental areas," Pittman said in a statement. "All three options could destroy parks along the Chesapeake Bay, at a time when we are trying to expand public water access."

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, said the governor considers adding a span to the current bridge "the only serious option he supports."

He said Hogan is "unequivocal" in that stance.

"What is completely unserious is Mr. Pittman issuing a frantic knee-jerk press release that demonstrates little to no understanding of traffic patterns, projections, or the nature of the traffic that crosses the bridge," Ricci wrote in an email. "Once he finally gets up to speed, we look forward to working with his administration as we advance this important project."

Pitman said the study's 2040 projections for Bay Bridge traffic "are based on an assumption that the Eastern Shore will develop in ways that its communities oppose." Pittman, a Democrat, said he believes traffic can be better addressed with forward-looking public transit options not considered by the study.

Six open houses in September and October are scheduled for public review of the proposals. The study on an alternative crossing began in 2016. The review is expected to be finished in 2021.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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