Heading to the Beach This Weekend?
Fairfax beachgoers may be interested to know that a Maryland task force is looking for ways to alleviate the notorious traffic that clogs the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a study that could lead to the construction of another bay crossing.
A new bridge, which would be a massive, expensive and controversial project, is only an idea and wouldn't come to fruition for many years, officials said. But as traffic worsens, it may be inevitable, said O. James Lighthizer, co-chairman of the 23-member task force appointed by Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan.
Two possible locations for a new bridge would link Calvert County and the Eastern Shore.
"Something has to be done to enhance the capacity of traffic crossing the Chesapeake Bay," said Lighthizer, a former Maryland transportation secretary. "The question is what it is. To do nothing, which is an option, will not be a politically acceptable alternative over a period of time."
The original bridge was built in 1952, and about 20 years later a second bridge was built next to it. Those spans cannot be expanded to handle more vehicles, transportation officials said.
The current average weekday bridge traffic is 61,000 vehicles, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority. That is expected to grow 41 percent, to 86,000 vehicles, by 2025. On Saturdays, average traffic volume on the bridge is expected to jump 42 percent, from 95,000 vehicles to 135,000.
On heavy days, traffic delays on the bridge last up to six hours. In 20 years, delays could double, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.
"Finding a solution to the growing traffic congestion and needs at the Bay Bridge is essential if we are to continue to thrive as a state," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) said in a statement
By Steve Fehr |
September 2, 2005; 7:00 AM ET
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