There is a very important meeting being held next week, one we urge everyone to attend. The Maryland Transportation Authority will be discussing and taking comments on its long-running Bay Crossing Study for a new potential span across the Chesapeake.
The open house is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Kent County High School in Worton. Information on the study, including presentation slides to be shown at the open house, is available at www.baycrossingstudy.com.
Since the announcement of this study effort a couple years back, Kent County residents have been concerned about the potential for a new Bay Bridge to land here.
“Failing an atomic bomb dropped in Kent County, I am hard-pressed to think of an outcome I could consider more disastrous than the addition of a Bay Bridge span and the ruination it would bring to our beautiful home,” reads a public comment received by the MDTA.
The concerns are not unfounded, as the Rock Hall and Tolchester areas were previously considered as landing sites on the Eastern Shore while plans for the original Bay Bridge were being developed.
Initial maps used in the early phases of the current study showed 14 potential corridors with a number of landing sites in Kent County. Those 14 have been reduced to three: the current William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge corridor, a northern alternative landing in Rock Hall and a southern route to Talbot County. Also under study is a no-build option.
Those in Kent County worried about the potential for a bridge landing here were able to breathe a sigh of relief late last month when Gov. Larry Hogan stated his preferred location for a new span.
“There is only one option I will ever accept: adding a third span to our existing Bay Bridge. While the federal process requires multiple proposals, the data is indisputable — this option would maximize congestion relief & minimize environmental impact,” Hogan tweeted Aug. 28.
MDTA Executive Director Jim Ports had previously issued a statement saying a new span at the existing Bay Bridge — identified on study maps as corridor 7 — would have the most positive impact on traffic.
“While the No-Build alternative and three preliminary corridor alternatives are being included in the federal environmental process for further study, traffic models indicate that one of the three — building a third crossing within the same corridor as the existing Bay Bridge (Corridor 7) — would have the most positive impact on reducing traffic,” Ports said.
From our point of view, a span into Kent County does not make much sense. There simply is not the highway infrastructure here to support the traffic it would bring. And if the state were to also build a four- or six-lane highway through Kent County, where would it go to? Would it run down to U.S. Route 50 at Wye Mills, where beach traffic already starts to back up? It certainly would not run across to Delaware, where motorists could shop tax free and may opt to stay beachside in Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach or Bethany Beach instead of Maryland’s own Ocean City.
Also, keep in mind the age of the existing Bay Bridge spans. The first span opened in 1952. The second was built in 1973. At some point in the not-so-distant future, they will need serious and very costly updating.
And yet, just the planning process alone for a new span is incredibly long. Think about how long we have been seeing “No bridge to Kent County” signs dotting our roads. Hogan is in his second and final term as governor. As of 2023, he will be out and if the wheels are not firmly on the tracks for wherever the state plans a new span, a new administration could start looking our way again.
Attendance at Tuesday’s meeting at Kent County High School is very important. For one, it is a chance to learn how the state’s study is progressing, what the experts are looking at and how they are making their recommendations. It also is another chance to provide public comment; the state has reportedly received more than 1,100 comments as of July 31 on the study.
“Comments are vital to the success of the study and will be taken into consideration throughout the study,” reads open house presentation slides already available on the Bay Crossing Study website.
There is still a long way to go in this study process. We agree with Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino’s comments at a Sept. 3 town council meeting that there remains a need for community members to state their opinions to the MDTA.
“Gov. Hogan has gone on record saying that he will only support the third span at the existing location, so I think we’re in pretty good shape. But it can never hurt for our local voices to be heard,” Cerino said.