ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- A draft environmental impact statement of a proposed third crossing of the Chesapeake Bay concluded a third span along the existing Bay Bridge has "substantial advantages" over other alternatives.
"We have a capacity problem," Jim Ports, of the MDTA, said. "There are just too many people trying to cross the bridge at one time."
The review looked at three corridors for a possible new bay crossing -- one between Pasadena and Centreville, one along state routes 214 and 424 and a new span along the existing bridge -- as well as a no-build option.
Originally, more than a dozen corridors were considered, but in September the Maryland Transportation Authority eliminated all but the three included in the draft environmental impact statement, saying the others would not reduce traffic on the existing bridge enough to be considered further. A separate study looking into the feasibility of an electric ferry concluded it would cost too much and would not be big enough.
The corridor along the existing bridge would involve a shorter crossing and would be able to tie into existing roads on either side but could have more noise impacts since the area is more developed. It would also potentially have the fewest environmental impacts, would be the most compatible with existing land uses and would better relieve congestion at the existing Bay Bridge.
The other corridors "could result in substantial land use changes on the Eastern Shore," it said. "Providing access to undeveloped land on the Eastern Shore in proximity to major employment centers such as Baltimore and Washington, DC could lead to increased demand for unplanned residential development in the rural areas of (the corridors)."
Not everyone is on board with the idea, however.
Jay Falstad, with the Queen Anne's Conservation Association, said they found in their own study the proposed project doesn't consider cashless tolling or increased telecommuting because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It just seems crazy to spend billions of dollars on a new bridge when the State of Maryland has other highway projects that do carry a higher priority than the Bay Bridge," Falstad said.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman agrees.
"If you have the ability for more cars to cross the bridge, you have more cars coming and the backups will still be there," Pittman said.
Some drivers said they're not on board with the idea.
"It's just going to add more traffic overall," Tony Kim said.
"There's some benefits to it and some drawbacks," Jennifer Kelly said.
The draft was originally supposed to be released in December but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Maryland Transportation Authority and Federal Highway Administration plan to hold public hearings on the draft. Comments will be accepted through May 10.
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