Automated lane closure system coming to Maryland’s Bay Bridge

Maryland has been working for years to make getting across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge faster and more efficient. Highway officials say the next step in the process is going to be implemented soon.

The Maryland Transportation Authority said it expects that a new automated lane closure system will be activated “in the fall.” They aren’t sure exactly when.

Between long-term construction and maintenance on the bridge, as well as the added eastbound lane every afternoon rush hour, lanes are closed multiple times per day. Currently, a crew has to rush out and set up barrels and cones. It can take 30 to 45 minutes to get everything in place on both sides of the bridge.

But the new system will be able to trigger the activation of gates that swing across lanes automatically, closing lanes much faster.

“It’s going to have three scenarios — either a green X, yellow X, or red X,” said William Pines, executive director of the Maryland Transportation Authority. “When motorists see that yellow X, they should be getting out of the lane, because when the red X is in place they should be out of the lane.”

It’s estimated that the transition from an open lane to a closed lane will take about 15 minutes.

“After the red X is deployed, then the horizontal swing gates will be deployed into place and we have to wait for all the traffic that’s still in the lane to actually clear the lane,” said Pines. “Just like if you come up to a red light, you know that you can’t go through an intersection. In the exact same way, when they see that red X, they need to be out of the lane and moving into a lane that is open.”

Besides being faster and more efficient, the new system also makes the bridge safer for drivers and the workers who have to drive out and put the cones out manually.

“Unfortunately in our history we have lost an employee” who was setting up cones and barrels, said Pines. “It is a dangerous operation working next to live traffic.”

Overhead signs will also be in place warning drivers of problems ahead about 2 ½ miles away from the eastbound span and 1 ½ miles away from the westbound bridge. The gates will be stored on the median.

Much of the infrastructure and construction is already finished, and you can see the gates in place.

The MDTA is working on software integration and testing before it rolls out the new system.

The system is part of a $58 million reconstruction of the former toll plaza. The state tore down toll booths and reconfigured the lanes approaching and leaving the bridge on the western shore, and installed the electronic tolling on the Kent Island side.

You can see a video of the new operation in the second video on the MDTA Bay Bridge home page, at about the three-minute mark.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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