Significant Backups Expected St. Patrick’s, Easter Weekends; Motorists Urged to Travel Off-Peak
After a winter with crews expediting #BayBridgeWork with the help of lower traffic volumes and occasional mild temperatures, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) is preparing for an aggressive construction schedule in the coming weeks that will advance the project to rehabilitate the westbound right lane. Motorists should expect significant backups and delays as the work will coincide with increases in traffic volume that come with warmer weather.
Governor Larry Hogan’s aggressive timeline for the project, aimed at reopening all lanes of the Bay Bridge by summer, has gotten a boost over the winter. Relatively mild temperatures allowed crews to fill 13 bridge joints and all eight full-depth puncture holes with rapid set concrete. The success of those pours sets the stage to help streamline the upcoming pours of latex modified concrete (LMC) – decking material that needs temperatures of at least 45 degrees and a five-day curing process.
About 58% of the westbound span’s right lane has already received the latex modified concrete layer. After the remaining 42% of the right lane deck has been laid with latex material, the lane will be able to support traffic. As a reminder, this deck project is necessary because the westbound right lane surface has reached the end of its service life and is severely deteriorated.
Crews will continue to take advantage of good weather. Motorists should be aware that in coming weeks, mid-day westbound center lane closures may take place weekdays between the morning and afternoon rush hours. The center lane closures are necessary to give crews a safe work zone as they pour concrete onto the right lane. The center lane closures may occur Monday through Friday, any time between 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. daily, though the exact schedule will depend on weather, traffic volumes and work progress.
Spring Brings Progress, Travel Delays
While MDTA may adjust the construction schedule to avoid peak travel periods, motorists should allow extra travel time when crossing the bridge and expect major delays in both directions as spring approaches and traffic volumes increase.
Major weekend delays are anticipated as more people travel to the Eastern Shore for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, spring break and warmer weekends in late April. In previous years during April, Bay Bridge motorists experienced weekend delays even when two-way traffic operations were in place to help alleviate eastbound delays. Weekend delays have the potential to extend to I-97 eastbound and the US 50/301 split westbound, even without weather impacts and incidents.
MDTA is asking motorists to plan ahead and travel the Bay Bridge during these off-peak periods:
St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, the best times to travel will be before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
Easter weekend, Thursday, April 9, through Sunday, April 12, the best times to travel will be before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m. On Monday, April 13, the best times will be before 6 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
As always, MDTA urges drivers to stay alert in work zones, and thanks motorists and communities for their patience as this critical work advances. Also, remember that incidents or disabled vehicles can cause further backups and delays. Two-way traffic operations will be reserved for emergency situations and severe backups only. MDTA Police will continue working with Maryland State Police and local law enforcement to assist with traffic flow on US 50 and parallel routes. Bay Bridge drivers are reminded to stay on US 50 to keep local roadways open for first responders and residents.
The westbound project also includes replacement of overhead signals and steel rail posts, deck sealing and deck/joint repairs in the center and left lanes. After the right lane is reopened, this additional work will take place during overnight/off-peak closures in the 2020-2021 construction season with minimal impact on traffic. Parts of this phase will require placement of steel plates in some areas of the bridge.
All-Electronic Tolling Update
Along with reopening of the westbound right lane, all-electronic tolling also will be in place at the Bay Bridge by summer. With all-electronic tolling, cash will not be accepted as payment at the time of travel. Drivers won’t have to stop to pay tolls, as overhead gantries collect tolls electronically by E-ZPass® or Video Tolling.
To get ready for all-electronic tolling, toll lanes 3, 4 and 5 have been closed so crews can construct the free-flowing traffic lanes through the existing tolling structure. Work began Sunday evening into Monday morning on concrete pours for the base foundations that will hold the new overhead tolling gantry on the Eastern Shore side between the bridge and MD 8. During the week of March 9, one lane of the eastbound span may be closed between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. for additional gantry foundation work. Motorists also will see work for utility relocation, roadway reconstruction and installation of the gantry. Removal of remaining toll booths/canopy will happen after all-electronic tolling is live, with full roadway reconstruction in 2022.
Motorists should get ready for all-electronic tolling NOW by enrolling in E-ZPass® Maryland.
With E-ZPass®, Marylanders can get free standard transponders with no monthly fee and can benefit from major savings, paying as little as $1.40 daily to cross the Bay Bridge compared to $6 for video tolling. Visitom ezpassmd.cto sign up today or to access a list of Customer Service Centers and retail locations. MDTA is hosting a series of E-ZPass® outreach events in Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s counties in March where customers can learn about all-electronic tolling and sign up for E-ZPass.® For a list of event locations go to https://go.usa.gov/xdPFG.
Customers who don’t want to have a credit card on file or carry a balance can use cash to open an account. These cash accounts can be opened by visiting E-ZPass® Maryland Customer Service Centers at MDTA toll facilities, at many Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) locations and at retail partners. A full list of these locations is available at ezpassmd.com.
For the latest on Bay Bridge traffic, call 1-877-BAYSPAN (229-7726) or visit baybridge.com. Sign up for email/text alerts here https://bit.ly/2Dh9EZn or view real-time traffic camera images on MDTA roadways by visiting mdta.maryland.gov. For updates on major incidents follow the MDTA on Twitter at twitter.com/TheMDTA. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheMDTA.