STEVENSVILLE – A leaking propane tanker truck forced the closing of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge just prior to the start of the Tuesday afternoon rush hour and led to lengthy backups on both sides of the bridge.

The truck was headed west on Route 50 between the Route 8 overpass and the bridge on Kent Island when the leak was discovered at about 3:28 p.m., according to Cheryl Sparks, spokesperson for the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Paul Schlotterbeck, 2nd Assistant Chief of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department, which was among the units responding, said the leak began after the tanker’s release valve on the top of the tank malfunctioned, releasing the propane.

The decision was quickly made to close both spans while the situation was evaluated and the leak was contained, Sparks said.

With both spans shut down, traffic backed up about four miles in each direction, she said. The MdTA put out advisories asking motorists to avoid the Bay Bridge because there was initially no estimate of how long it would take to clear the incident.

The Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services used its Blackboard Connect service to contact county residents by telephone and/or e-mail to inform them of the incident and urge them to avoid Route 50 in the area. This is similar to a previous service that was known as Reverse 911.

Sparks said hazardous materials teams plugged the leak on the truck and then removed it from the scene without any difficulty. Schlotterbeck said the truck was taken to Sandy Point where its contents could be safely offloaded.

 Sparks said there were no injuries and no other vehicles were involved.

The two-lane bridge carrying eastbound traffic reopened at 4:56 p.m. and the three-lane span carrying westbound traffic reopened at 5:15 p.m., Sparks said.

County emergency officials used Blackboard Connect again to inform residents that the incident had been cleared and that the bridge was re-opening to traffic.

The westbound backup was cleared at 5:50 p.m. and the eastbound backup was cleared around 6:10 p.m., Sparks said.

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