14-mile backups on Bay Bridge could become the new normal

WASHINGTON – Summer beachgoers and commuters face sitting in miles of stalled traffic on Chesapeake Bay Bridge if three more travel lanes are not added to the five-lane crossing, a state analysis of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge released this week concludes.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge carries nearly 96,000 cars on peak summer travel days. That volume is expected to swell to nearly 129,000 cars on peak days in 2040.

The Maryland Transportation Authority study says that if the Chesapeake Bay Bridge isn’t widened or replaced in 25 years there will be daily traffic backups up to 14 miles long on the eastbound stretch.

According to the study, a total of eight lanes would be needed to handle future capacity: five lanes for the peak traffic direction and three for the off-peak traffic.

Four options were proposed for the bridge, including building an additional three-lane span; or demolishing the older two-lane eastbound span and replacing it with a five-lane bridge. Both of the current bridge spans could be demolished to make way for an eight-lane bridge.

Adding capacity to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge carries a hefty price tag — as high as nearly $7 billion to build a new eight-lane bridge. Adding no new lanes and simply providing maintenance to the bridge, and widening the approaches could cost more than $3 billion.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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