Maryland Comptroller, Transportation Authority Battle over Bay B - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Comptroller, Transportation Authority Battle Over Bay Bridge Backups

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Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (Photo: WBOC) Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (Photo: WBOC)
Comptroller Peter Franchot is shown announcing his bid for reelection to a fourth term. (Photo credit: Team Franchot YouTube page) Comptroller Peter Franchot is shown announcing his bid for reelection to a fourth term. (Photo credit: Team Franchot YouTube page)

KENT ISLAND, Md. - A battle over backups on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge has ruffled feathers in Annapolis. And while that happens, drivers on Delmarva say the traffic is only getting worse as traffic continues to whittle from 11 lanes down to two.

Since construction began on the Bay Bridge, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has weighed in on the traffic buildup. In a letter addressed to Maryland Transportation Authority Secretary Pete Rahn, the comptroller recommended that construction and closures on the bridge be delayed both fall and winter after miles of backups forced drivers to turn around on both sides. Franchot told the department to reconsider the project which has so far been "poorly planned and executed."

In a Facebook post on Monday, Franchot wrote:

"I think we've seen enough. The whole point of government is to ensure the safety, security and well-being of the people we serve. Which is precisely what is not occurring now on, near and around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

As we now know, the closure of the right lane of the westbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for deck rehabilitation has been poorly planned and executed from the start. As a result, travelers on both sides of the Bay Bridge have been subjected to severe, if not unprecedented traffic backups - as long as 14 miles eastbound, and back to the U.S. 50/301 split westbound.

The makeshift efforts by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to alleviate these conditions haven't worked. Commuters can't get to work on time, kids are missing school and, just last Friday, transit riders bound for the Eastern Shore were literally been stranded in Annapolis.

We've seen enough, and we've had enough. This afternoon, I will be sending a letter to MDOT, asking that this project be completely shut down for the fall and winter months.

It's my expectation that the Department will use this time to step back, regroup and engage in an inclusive, comprehensive planning process with ALL of our community stakeholders - commuters, schools, police, fire, rescue, cities and counties.

It's my hope that, through some real preparation and planning, we will be able to conduct the necessary repairs to the bridge while using every tool in the kit - including a greater investment in mass transit and the elimination of the Bay Bridge tollbooths - to relieve the burden to Maryland travelers to the greatest extent possible. At this point, we just don't have a choice."

But the MdTA says a delay would only make Bay Bridge backups even worse:

"The safety of Marylanders is our top priority, which is exactly why we are taking action on this urgent safety project. To delay this work from fall and winter, as the Comptroller suggests, would shift it into spring and summer when traffic is at its peak, only magnifying the disruption that residents are experiencing now. Most drivers recognize that any highway or bridge project causes traffic delays and disruptions. Unlike most highway or bridge projects, there are no other easy options or detours around the Bay Bridge, which is why we continue to work closely with local school systems and school bus contractors, employers in Annapolis and on the Eastern Shore, and public safety officials from Anne Arundel and Queen Anne's Counties. Regardless of timing, construction of this critical safety project will unavoidably require moving the same amount of traffic with 20 percent less of total bridge lanes and 33 percent less of the eastbound lanes without contraflow (two-way operations)."

And with little end in sight, some drivers too say it's time to reevaluate.

MdTA says it's best to avoid crossing the Bay Bridge on Thursday and Friday afternoons. For drivers traveling westbound, the agency suggests traveling before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m. to avoid any delays.

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