15-Mile Backup in MD Leads to Promises of Relief

Thu October 24, 2002 - National Edition
CEG



STEVENSVILLE, Md. (AP) A huge traffic jam that backed up drivers for miles on both sides of the Bay Bridge on Sunday has state transportation officials scrambling to avoid any repeats, even as work continues on the first major overhaul of the westbound span in 30 years.

Meanwhile, off-season beach-goers _ including the 124,000 in Ocean City last weekend _ and commuters and shoppers from Delmarva are hoping to avoid similar

highway nightmares.

At times, traffic was clogged for 15 miles on the Eastern Shore and up to 9 miles on the west side of the bridge.

For Easton resident Amy Steward, an afternoon drive to Annapolis for lunch with her old college roommate turned into a seven-hour ordeal that still has her fuming.

”I’ve lived on the Shore most of my life, and I’ve never seen anything like it,’ Steward said. ”It took me three hours to get to Annapolis, four hours to get home.’

The problem, according to Maryland Transportation Authority spokeswoman Lori Vidal, was that too many cars were trying to navigate and too few lanes on the

4-mile crossing.

The state is in the middle of a four-year, $45 million re-decking of the westbound span, which opened in 1972.

Officials have tried to minimize hassles, prohibiting weekend work during spring and summer and limiting construction to night hours during peak months for

tourists.

But the project reached a point, they say, where construction crews had to shut down the center lane for about six weeks, forcing traffic onto the remaining two lanes.

The center lane was closed Oct. 15 and will reopen Nov. 27.

And through Friday morning, the westbound span will be closed completely from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

State officials say they’re looking for ways to avoid repeats of last Sunday’s mess. They won’t say what options they’re considering, but they say they may announce

changes this week.

In the meantime, they are urging motorists to avoid using the bridge during peak weekend hours, traveling instead before 11 a.m. or after 8 p.m.