Letter to Editor: Northern Bay Bridge Through Kent County Is Not a Viable Solution

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There has been much discussion recently about a proposed new bridge across the Chesapeake Bay. Its purpose would be to relieve congestion on the current Bay Bridge and shorten travel times for commuters between the major metropolitan areas on the Western shore and popular beachfront vacation destinations in Maryland and Delaware.

The illustration below shows the major metropolitan areas of Washington DC and Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and the Atlantic Coast beaches that attract the majority of travelers crossing the Bay Bridge. Note that this prime vacation destination is located south of both Washington DC and Baltimore. Current travel routes are shown in blue dotted lines.

The existing Bay Bridge already provides a very direct route from Baltimore to the Atlantic beaches. A second bay bridge located north of Baltimore would not provide a practical or efficient solution for reducing traffic on the existing bridge, as Baltimore residents are not likely drive well north of the city to access a new bridge when the existing bridge offers a much shorter route.

The map also shows that travelers from the DC area must now angle north to reach the Chesapeake Bay Bridge before turning back south to their final destination. A more effective solution for reducing congestion on the Bay Bridge would be to construct a new bridge or tunnel along the proposed route shown by the orange arrow. A new crossing located in this region would shorten the drive and reduce traffic congestion around Annapolis, Kent Island and Easton/St. Michaels. This more direct route would merge into Route 50 near Cambridge providing easy access to Maryland beaches.

Kent and other counties north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are not viable sites for a new bridge.

Zane Carter
Kent County, MD

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Letters to Editor

  1. Elizabeth Watson says:

    As this map shows quite clearly (thanks, Zane!) the reason for a crossing through Kent County (and probably Queen Anne’s) would be to create a viable alternative for truck traffic to the I-95 corridor north of Baltimore, by creating a link to the newly improved US Route 301, then via US Route 1 to I-95 just southwest of the I-95 crossing over the Delaware River. Not to mention more land for Baltimore (city, county, port) expansion. The MDTA’s discussion of the need for a new crossing focuses only on relieving beach-goer traffic congestion, which is clearly not at work for any zone under consideration north of the present Bay Bridge.

  2. Barbara Snyder says:

    YES,YES,YES!!!!

  3. I know this is somewhat off topic, but instead of investing in a bridge, wouldn´t it be better to invest in better public transport that includes the Eastern Shore, such as light rail?

    • Keith Thompson says:

      I think there would be two problems with light rail on the Eastern Shore.

      First is that I don’t think there is currently enough of a population on the Eastern Shore, especially the Upper Shore, to be economically viable. I think you would need to grow the population here, especially of younger people who would be commuting to their Western Shore jobs to make light rail economically viable.

      Second, the nature of a lot of the summer traffic is beach vacation traffic, and it would be difficult to pack a week’s worth of clothes and supplies on a train for an Ocean City vacation.

      Finally, you should keep in mind that when the Rt. 301 expansion around Middletown is completed in 2020, it creates a direct non-stop route from Philly to Washington as an alternate to I-95 and accommodating that increase in traffic should be the major consideration for a new bridge.

  4. I totally agree with Mr. Carter, a Bay Bridge north of the current spans makes no sense at all, not only for the reasons he describes, but also when you include the potential for a weather event that creates the need for the mass evacuation of the Delmarva during peak summer vacation times, a weather event as we saw this past summer in the south Atlantic. That would be well over 1 million people funneled down trying to cross one, maybe two, northern bridges: an absolute traffic choking nightmare!

    The issues, and please, don’t shoot the messenger, because I am absolutely against a bridge being built to Kent County, are 1) the environmental sensitivity of the Blackwater Wild Life Refuge, and 2) the cost consideration. From Edgemere/I-695 to Tolchester is estimated at 11 miles. From the intersection of Routes 2 & 4 near Sunderland, MD on the western shore to Rte 50 below Cambridge and across the Blackwater Wild Life Refuge is estimated at 30 miles. Add in the reduced height requirement of a northern crossing, only 100 feet, vs any southern bridge which needs to be 186 feet, well, you can see why the MDTA/FHWA are looking closely at a northern crossing.

    Personally, I think the most cost effective and least intrusive solution is a combination of: 1) full Electronic Toll Lanes, doing away with the 11 toll booths at the current Bay Bridge, 2) construction of a single third east span, so there are three full lanes in both directions, and construct it to be architecturally capable of supporting High Speed Rail, which the current spans are not, and 3) construction of a limited access, public/private partnership funded, Queenstown/Easton/Cambridge By-Pass from the Rte 301/50 split to Rte 50 just below Cambridge. According to the Comprehensive Plans of Talbot and Dorchester Counties, summer traffic on Rte 50 in the towns of Easton and Cambridge due to vacationers is horrendous, and who’s traffic lights are complete hindrances to free flowing vehicular movement. I’m sure Talbot and Dorchester would be in agreement as this would provide a solution to their summer traffic problem.

    • Keith Thompson says:

      I concur 100% that a Queenstown/Easton/Cambridge bypass is needed. This is probably a bigger need than a new bridge right now.

      • Keith,

        Thanks for your supportive reply.

        To all, please make sure you submit your ideas and comments to the MDTA, addressed to Heather Lowe, Project Manager, MDTA Bay Crossing Study.
        Even though it is passed the 12-15-17 dead-line for Scoping comments, the submission will still be catalogued.
        Submit on-line at
        http://www.baycrossingstudy.com/public-involvement/comment
        and as a back-up, e-mail to
        info@baycrossingstudy.com
        Also, please send a copy to Jeanette Mar, Environmental Program Manager, FHWA, as the FHWA is the lead federal agency for the study, at
        jeanette.mar@dot.gov

        Thanks,
        Mike

        • Robert Kramer says:

          Mike, thanks for taking on the challenge of staying on top of this critical issue. (And thanks to Zane for pointing out what should be obvious if anyone actually looks at a map) Look forward to your next visit to the County Commissioners for an update.

          Lots of folks have written lots of comments to the MDTA… and the discussion has expanded rapidly on the local front recently. The dilemma that we have is that we’re really punching smoke, because the MDTA has been very ambiguous about what the primary objectives of a third span are. We can state many reasons why a northern span isn’t the best solution to (what exactly?). Like I can’t see any reason why Maryland would want to build a Bay Bridge that would get Maryland citizens to the Delaware beaches and tax-free shopping quicker and easier. But… there must be some economic development reasoning why MDTA would consider it. Or… is it just politics and because the northern span is the cheapest? You’ve got economic development experience and you’re really into some of the details of MDTA’s commentary. What do you think are their primary objectives?

          See you at 400 High soon, Bob

          • Mike Waal says:

            Bob, et al,

            It has, for decades, been about current and forecasted summer DE and MD beach destination traffic. Some people on the Dark Side of the Bay don’t know [or don’t want to know] all the main DE beaches are southeast of the current spans, not east or northeast, go figure. DE tourism reports 8,500,000 people visit DE beach destination points, which are mainly from Lewes to Fenwick, for the 16 week period of Memorial-to-Labor Day weekends. That is just over 500,000 people per weekend. Add in the 325,000/weekend that OC reports, plus West Ocean City [you should see the development going on there], Ocean Pines, and Berlin. It is a lot of people, given the fact, however, some DE and MD vacationers are from NJ, PA and northern MD.

            The Bay Bridge Life Cycle Cost Analysis [LCCA] of 2015 provides forecasted vehicle numbers. Some supporters from AA and QA Counties for another Bridge say these numbers are too low and get into arguments with MDTA. None the less, there will be more vehicles in 20 years than today, as long as the economy stays strong. During the great recession vacation traffic plummeted, and that is the reason for the new traffic study. Important to note, also, that the question that begs to be asked is “what will transportation look like in 20 years?” what with autonomous modules and full ETLs. The LCCA analysis doesn’t take autonomous modules into consideration, but MDTA is supposedly [?] for the current study.

            Plus, the other shoe that has to drop is to answer the question; “will there be DE and MD beaches to travel to in 20 years?” One report indicates a minimal 5 foot rise in sea levels will put all low lying areas [DE & MD], up to 1/3 of Worcester County, under water. A NO BUILD option looks good considering that forecast.

            Okay, fast forward to today, we now have to throw in the Middletown By-Pass element. I don’t think any previous traffic study included the By-Pass into their forecasts. QA County does not want anymore truck traffic passing through their section of Rte 301 and onto Rte 50. QA County forecasts, unscientifically, it will be ‘a lot’, whatever ‘a lot’ is. DElDOT says it will be minimal. QA County is conducting their own traffic study right now, pre- and post- By-Pass opening, to get a handle on numbers and then, potentially, argue that there is a need to divert that truck traffic before it gets to QA County, which they contend will be mostly Port of Baltimore/Sparrows Point Industrial Complex truck traffic. Throw in the future growth studies and projections of the Port of Baltimore ….. I-695 is very close to the Bay over there ….. who is admittedly running out of space, well you can see the attraction. Realize the MDTA and the Port are ‘business units’ of MDOT!

            It is a very complex issue, we can all realize, and not to be taken lightly. Those Kent Countians that say “it will never happen here”, well, me, personally, I think we should error on the worse-case-scenario side and work from there. Better to be safe than sorry.

            MDTA tried to keep this under the radar for as long as they could. One of their first objectives was to find a law firm that was a NEPA expert, because they knew they were going to be sued: they openly admit it. Almost 10% of their [our tax money] $5 mil budget is allocated just for that. They realize from past studies and experiences the push back they are going to receive will be significant. They want to dot the Is and cross the Ts so that law suits will be minimized.

            Also realize the advertisement for the On-Line Presentation, which crashed, go figure, was only to be published in the Baltimore Sun: no Eastern Shore advertisement for Kent, Talbot or Dorchester Counties was planned, no Northern VA, no Southern MD, and very little Wash, DC advertising. Good Grief! Now how lop-sided would the comments have been if I hadn’t been at a BBRAG meeting and challenged their advertising plan, and told them practically no one on the eastern shore reads the BS. It was only then they reached out to advertise on the eastern shore. But still did not advertise in northern VA, southern MD, or expand DC advertising. Very questionable, indeed. Full transparency, I say not.

            Please, even though it is past the initial Scoping deadline to submit comments, folks should still send their comments and ideas to MDTA’s Ms. Heather Lowe, Program Manager, via this e-mail address
            info@baycrossingstudy.com,
            with a back up submission by snail mail to her at Maryland Transportation Authority, Division of Planning & Program Development, 2310 Broening Highway, Baltimore, MD 21224. If the On-Line Presentation can crash, could their Web site?
            Also, please, send a copy to Ms. Jeanette Mar, Environmental Program Manager, FHWA, as the FHWA is the lead federal agency for the study, at jeanette.mar@dot.gov
            And finally, The Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance is archiving submitted comments. Please forward your comments to them at
            contact@kentalliance.org

            The reveal of a location, or trustfully the No Build option, by the MDTA will be in late 2019, early 2020. It is essential we don’t fall asleep at the switch or lose interest of this important subject. It is a long haul, we must be vigilant!

            Mike

          • Mike Waal says:

            Ho Bob, et al,

            I wrote an extensive reply to above correspondence, but it has not been added.
            Maybe the editor of the spy can tell me why and I can revise as needed.

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