STEVENSVILLE--New lane markings, rumble strips and signs on the three-lane span of the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge will be installed starting the evening of Friday, April 19, weather permitting, and will take about a week to complete.
The new measures are designed to improve safety on the bridge during two-way operations, the Maryland Transportation Authority said. The new approach was recommended during a study of bridge safety completed last November.
There will be a painted buffer between the left and center lanes using continuous yellow lines, rumble strips, and a solid white line the entire 4.3 mile length of the bridge. Signs advising motorists of the change are also being installed along the span.
A significant change for motorists will be that vehicles will be prohibited from changing lanes between the left lane and the center lane the entire length of the bridge at all times regardless of traffic flow, said MdTA spokesperson Kelly Melhem.
"If you're driving in the left lane you have to stay in the left lane. If you're driving in the center lane, the only lane change you can make is to the right lane," Melhem said.
Signs stating "Stay in Lane-Do Not Pass" will be erected on the three-lane bridge to let motorists know of the new policy.
She said the MdTA doesn't foresee enforcing the do-not-pass requirement being "any more difficult" than enforcing other traffic laws on the bridge. While acknowleding that police obviously can't pull vehicles over on the bridge because of violations, the new policy "is enforceable by MdTA police."
In studying ways last year to make the bridge safer during two-way operations the MdTA considered the use of movable or concrete barriers between the eastbound and westbound lanes but determined that they were not feasible.
The study found that such barriers would make the left and center lanes narrower and would add weight to the bridge that it was not designed to handle.
It determined that such barriers would decrease the width of the left and center lanes by a foot and that the barriers could obstruct driver visibility in some places.
The MdTA said rumble strips that were installed along portions of the span in 2008 have been "proven effective in discouraging lane changes." The double yellow lines and single solid white line, along with the rumble strips, will create a buffer between the lanes, it said.
Work crews will remove existing rumble strips and painted pavement markers first and will replace them with the new painted lines and rumble strips running the length of the bridge.
The work will take place during the overnight hours and may require the closing of the three-lane bridge Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., from 10 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday, and from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday. The MdTA emphasized that this schedule is dependent on weather.
"The MdTA will monitor the performance of these improvements and consider if they would be applicable to the eastbound span, where two-way traffic may be used to accommodate full westbound span closures for maintenance/construction," the agency said in a statement.
"While we were disappointed that barrier separation was not a viable safety option for motorists traveling on the Bay Bridge, we understand the reasons and applaud the MdTA for proceeding with other traffic safety measures," said Ragina Averella, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The Bay Bridge safety study can be seen by logging onto www.mdta.maryland.gov