A full list of options for a potential third Chesapeake Bay crossing is out, though meetings—not to mention, an official, finalized list—are still months away.
A set of six maps, which appear to have first been disseminated in a column in the Chestertown Spy last month before being shared more widely on social media, show 14 route options spanning 11 total counties on the east (Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary’s) and west (Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester and Somerset) sides of the Chesapeake Bay. One of the draft maps is published below.
Closest to Baltimore City are routes three, four and five, which would cut across Southeast Baltimore County and over to Queen Anne’s County. Respectively, those would begin near I-95 in Essex, near I-695 in Middle River and near I-695 in Sparrows Point, a.k.a. Tradepoint Atlantic.
According to John Sales, manager of public affairs for the Maryland Transportation Authority, these weren’t supposed to made public just yet–not before the agency schedules a series of open houses to solicit public feedback. And contrary to what Del. Robin Grammer of Baltimore County posted on Friday, neither the state nor the Federal Highway Administration released them.
“We don’t know exactly how it go out there, to be honest with you,” Sales said.
Unsurprisingly, they’re already drawing some strong responses from people who live along those routes, as reported today by the Calvert County Recorder. But Sales noted that these aren’t necessarily the final choices.
“These are draft, pre-decisional maps, so they’re not final,” the agency spokesman said, later adding, “That’s how those maps exist today. I can’t say that’s how they’re gonna look a few months from now in the spring, when we get to those open houses.”
Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration announced plans in 2016 to study how and where to build a a second bay crossing in Maryland–and a third one overall–citing traffic as the chief motivation. Given the severe congestion that happens along the two existing routes to traverse the bay, particularly during the summer, Hogan forecast at the time, “the reality is that there is simply too much traffic, and that it will continue to get worse.” More specifically, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn predicted that at the current rate of tourist travel, delays on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge could stretch 14 miles for commuters by 2040.
So, they’re looking to build another outlet to alleviate that stress. What’s followed has been a $5 million, state-financed environmental impact and engineering study over the last several years, exploring everything from traffic and costs to channel depth to air quality, and even proximity to cultural resources.
“From the beginning of the study, the team has been looking at the entire Chesapeake Bay within the state of Maryland, so you’re talking from the top to the bottom there,” Sales said of the geographic range shown on the maps.
Sales said they’ll make a formal announcement of the open house dates soon—likely to be “later in the spring”—and will publish the official maps online and share the meeting schedule on social media.
Per this schedule, the draft environmental impact study is due to publish this fall, and officials hope to “identify the preferred corridor alternative” by next winter.
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