Maryland will spend $28 million to study how to improve mobility in the U.S. 50/Route 301 corridor, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. announced on Friday.
The “Tier 2” study will build upon a preliminary review the state concluded earlier this year. That study concluded that the best way to make crossing the Chesapeake Bay easier would be to add a third span near the existing Bay Bridge.
Traffic engineers studied 14 “corridors” that ran the length of the bay before determining that Hogan’s preferred solution — a new crossing east of Annapolis — represented the best approach.
Although Maryland planners have settled on a two-mile wide corridor near the existing spans, Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr. stressed that the new study will be open-ended.
The analysis, which is expected to last four years, will look into how many lanes the crossing should be, where it should be built and whether it should be a bridge, a bridge/tunnel or a full tunnel. “We have to look at all these different factors because the federal NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process does not allow us to predetermine what it might be,” said Ports, a former federal transportation official.
A new span would require both federal approval and federal funding, he stressed. Since it’s a federal process, state leaders are unable to say when construction might begin.
Hogan (R) said the decision to allocate money for the study represented “a critical next step, which is necessary in order to move forward so that we can make a new Bay crossing a reality in the years to come.”
He pledged the state will seek input from county governments, environmental regulators and the public.
Local leaders complain that residents who live near Routes 50 and 301 are effectively trapped in their neighborhoods when traffic is bad, particularly during beach season. Emergency vehicles frequently encounter backups. Officials say the situation has grown worse due to telework and is expected to deteriorate further as more homes are built on the Eastern Shore.
Anne Arundel County Council member Amanda Fiedler, who represents the Broadneck Peninsula, said the new study “gives us hope that we won’t be tackling stand-still traffic in our communities and local roads for generations to come.”
Fiedler attended Hogan’s press conference, as did Queen Anne’s County Commission president Jim Moran, who has publicly urged Hogan to fund the Tier 2 study. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) told reporters he was not invited.
Although Hogan has sought a third span, Fiedler and Moran have convinced county officials from around the state to sign on to a different concept — a new span, with eight or more lanes, that would replace the aging spans motorists rely upon.
By Bruce DePuyt