CENTREVILLE — Steve Cohoon, the county’s public facilities planner, presented traffic numbers from westbound Route 50 and Route 8 to county commissioners on Tuesday, July 23, indicating a 12 percent jump on Memorial Day 2019.
The local traffic counting program, started in January 2018, has now collected sufficient data over 18 months and identified Sunday traffic patterns such as 52,450 in total volume on June 9; 58,497 on June 16; 59,497 on June 23; 52,153 on June 30; and 61,083 on July 7.
“Some of the comparisons we’re able to do now from one year to another is if it’s a trend or what type of a trend,” said Cohoon. “The traffic data report can be broken down hourly and include high speed travel, which means it’s moving well. And you can see when they decrease to speeds lower than 40 mph.”
The majority of the congestion on the roadway occurred between 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the exception of June 30 which saw no significant delays and July 7 which saw congestion from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
From Sundays between June 9 and June 23, the highest volume per hour fluctuated between 4,145 to 4,344 trips with July 7 totaling 4,278 trips.
Trends that local traffic counting efforts identified included when traffic volume hits approximately 4,000 in volume per hour, overall travel speeds drop significantly. Likewise, if that same volume per hour slows for a period of two hours, it will take several hours afterward to recover from the congestion.
“With that (all-day) backup on June 9, that’s when we started getting the message out to stay on Route 50 if heading to the beach. So when you stay late or leave early, it’s almost the same amount of vehicles in the 24-hour span, but it’s less during those peak hours,” said County Commissioner Jim Moran.
When total daily volume exceeds 55,000 trips, the county experiences congestion on Route 18 to avoid the backup on Routes 50 and 301.
Any accident or incident when there is an hourly volume of more than 3,500 per hour means significant delays and increased times to return to normal travel speeds. According to the findings, between 52,000 and 53,000 total daily trips without a traffic incident is the threshold before traffic begins to slow at the Bay Bridge.
While it was no surprise to county officials that traffic over the Memorial Day holiday jumped from the same time last year, data indicates an increase across the board and not just at specific locations.
The report says in 2019, the months April and May averaged about 11,000 to 12,000 vehicles per day on the four lanes of Route 301. That is approximately 2,500 more cars per day than 2018. At the counter stationed at the Middletown bypass, the additional 2,500 cars is approximately a 25 percent increase, a noticeable change along the northern portions of Route 301.
“Last week, the state asked us for some of these numbers and the data doesn’t lie. When they talk about how many vehicles the bridge can handle, we have solid proof that those numbers are not true,” said Moran.
Moran also decried the Maryland Transportation Authority’s $27 million deck rehabilitation on the west span of the Bay Bridge this fall. During the two-year project, the right lane of the span will close from October to April during fall 2019 and spring 2020 and fall 2020 to spring 2021.
According to Moran, construction will exacerbate traffic woes to the county.