STEVENSVILLE — More than 20 Mid-Shore residents and local leaders showed up to object to the new Bay Bridge route proposed by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) at a April 22 hearing held at the American Legion Hall, with many raising traffic congestion and air pollution concerns and one transportation expert calling for a complete pause on the study.
The hearing was one of two held by MDTA, the other being in Annapolis on April 21, before the public comment period on the agency’s draft environmental impact study (DEIS) closes on May 10. After the period closes, MDTA will release a final version of the DEIS late this year or next.
MDTA kept the Stevensville hearing open for two hours, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and residents took more than an hour to protest the state’s preferred choice to build a new Bay Bridge over to Kent Island, near the existing bridge spans. Many cited worries about future traffic congestion with the state predicting a 22% increase in traffic flow by 2040.
“On the weekends you’re like a slave to your house,” said Wanda Walters of Stevensville. “If we have an emergency here, there’s only one way in and one way out. There should be other places in Maryland that they could put other bridges.”
David Humphreys, a former executive director for the Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association, said he’s an experienced engineer who has “been all over the world” studying traffic and transportation.
Humphreys singled out the DEIS as flawed, saying there was “no analysis” of U.S. Route 50 in it. He alleged that MDTA has avoided studying the highway system around the current William Preston Lane Memorial Jr. Bay Bridge, which has become overburdened with beach traffic headed to Ocean City.
“A corridor is not (just) a bridge,” he said. “We’ve left this (traffic) problem exist for way too long. There is no regional plan that addresses the future.”
Humphreys also suggested that the three routes MDTA picked for consideration — Corridor 7 to Kent Island, Corridor 8 to St. Michaels and Corridor 6 north of Centreville — are “in effect one corridor.”
“There should be another corridor for comparison, well distant from this one,” he said. “We have a very immediate problem right now. That problem is congestion Thursday, Friday, Saturday — which takes up almost six months of the year, by the way. Kent Island is basically brought to a standstill every Sunday. ... There are horrendous situations that have to be addressed now.”
The transportation engineer called on MDTA to pause the Bay Bridge study and take “immediate action” to “study and implement” intelligent transportation systems, or advanced application and operational systems that help coordinate better traffic flow.
“You could literally do away with with that congestion with the right kind of fully operational, fully interactive system,” he said.
Corridor 7 would take a decade to build, and could be an eight or 12 lane bridge or bridge tunnel that would cost nearly $9 billion to construct.
The state originally studied 14 corridors and explored the idea of a bus, rail transit, or ferry system. All of those options were considered incapable of diverting enough traffic flow from the existing bridge spans, which are projected to reach daily vehicle capacity by 2025 and expire by 2065.
Besides the three corridors, the state could also choose the no-build option. But MDTA has previously said a no-build would not solve the traffic congestion or deal with the expiring bridge spans.
Jack Broderick, of Chester, spoke on behalf of the Kent Island Heritage Society, which called for the no-build option because Corridor 7 has about 13 historic sites along its route.
“Why doesn’t the state put the emphasis on maintaining those bridges or replacing those bridges and not put a whole new bridge in?” he asked. “Doing that, we take out a huge swath of Sandy Point (State Park) and precious land over on the Kent Island side. It would jeopardize historic Stevensville on the National Register of Historic Places, the Stevensville Cemetery — and basically the economic corridor of Kent Island. It would gut Kent Island.”
Fred Koch, of Kent Island, said a “third crossing here is not the way to go” because residents have already “had to bear the brunt of the traffic year after year after year.”
“There doesn’t seem to be any ability of ... state police or even local police to facilitate the traffic when we have had the heavy, heavy traffic on weekends,” he said. “It’s certainly not going to get any better with a third crossing. There’s not enough infrastructure here for that.”
Koch also raised a newfound point.
“I think three bridges in parallel is a very inviting target for terrorists,” he said. “If these folks ever decide to blow up three bridges, I think your port of Baltimore will be shut down for God knows how long. It’s a strong security issue.”
Other residents continued to raise concerns with heavy traffic and air pollution.
“Things have gotten really to the point where if there’s any need for an ambulance or fire department the back streets and side streets are clogged and there are safety concerns,” said Timothy Kelly of Stevensville. “It’s not fair for the local citizens of Queen Anne’s County and Anne Arundel County to bear the burden of all this overdevelopment. It would make sense to have another crossing at a location where we have smart zoning to limit development.”
Ron Walters, of Stevensville, said the pollution has gotten so bad he “can see the effects of carbon monoxide from all the traffic — it’s all over the siding of my house.”
“I’m breathing that stuff everyday,” he said. “How much more of that am I going to have to take?”