CENTREVILLE — A meeting between Queen Anne’s County Commissioners and the Maryland Transportation Authority officials to discuss shortening the timeline of the $27 million bridge project to redeck the right lane of the westbound span left commissioners frustrated and angry Tuesday, Oct. 8.
During the commission meeting later Tuesday, commissioners said MDTA planned on working through mid-May and the Thanksgiving holiday if the county agreed to a faster work schedule, but MDTA also proposed closing the middle lane of the westbound span Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. to move in equipment. Currently, the entire westbound span is closed from about 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly.
“Last Tuesday, MDTA told the county they could complete re-decking the westbound bridge in a year if they worked through mid-April,” said County Commissioner Jim Moran. “... they now have to go to mid-May and close the middle lane. I’m disappointed in the state and Gov. (Larry) Hogan for having this go on as long as it has without getting involved.”
Westbound traffic again left Kent Island gridlocked Sunday, Oct. 6, with the backup extending on U.S. Route 50.301 some nine miles. Similar gridlock occurred westbound on Oct. 3 and 4, when two-way traffic was permitted on the westbound span, allowing three lanes headed east and only one going west across the Chesapeake Bay, which prevented trucks, buses, campers and other large vehicles from using the bridge.
The commissioners discussed how MDTA first said they couldn’t do contraflow on the westbound bridge with the narrowed lanes, but once traffic backed up on the west side of the bridge, suddenly it was OK. It seems like they think Annapolis side is more important than the Kent Island side, that they don’t care how far the traffic backs up on the Shore, commissioners said.
“Moving forward this year, I’m contemplating suing the state. There comes a time when they dump so much on Queen Anne’s County, that it becomes unlawful,” Moran said. “(MDTA) wants to speed up (construction) by creating backups three days a week and on Thursday and Friday because we’ll only have one lane westbound because of contraflow.”
Kent Island school buses have been an average of 20 minutes, Moran said. And Monday, Oct. 7, there were reports of buses arriving two hours late to school.
“Personally, I don’t think (the state) gives a damn about Queen Anne’s County and with that being said, I want to write a letter saying we want to cease contraflow. This is not a way to treat your citizens, and the MDTA plan to close one more lane doesn’t guarantee they’ll be done in a year,” Moran said.
A formal letter to MDTA is slated to be completed in 48 hours and should bear the signatures of all county commissioners.
The letter will ask Gov. Hogan to intercede on the county’s behalf to stop the use of contraflow as it gives the Eastern Shore a single lane of westbound traffic.
“This situation has caused miles-long backups, hampered emergency services on local roads, caused students to be late for school and prevented morning and afternoon commuters from reaching work, medical appointments and travel to other destinations. Local concerns should be an essential part of this process, not ignored,” said State Comptroller Peter Franchot.
County Commissioner Chris Corchiarino echoed Moran’s sentiments saying he experiences the traffic headache as a resident of Kent Island.
“I live on Kent Island and my neighbors and I live in that traffic, and MDTA has no credibility with us,” said Corchiarino. “There’s no guarantees that they’re going to get it done, and they don’t need our permission to do this plan. This seems like a setup by MDTA to lull the county into something, and I don’t think we allow them to close more lanes.”