Recent incidents on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge have renewed interest in an additional bridge to ease traffic congestion and provide an alternative route between Maryland's Western and Eastern Shores. There are really only two problems holding back the construction of a third span - money and political will.
The first bridge was completed in 1952 and replaced the ferries which some of us remember and which used to run from Sandy Point to Matapeake on Kent Island. With increased traffic volume, the General Assembly, in 1967, authorized a second bridge at one of three locations - Southern Maryland, the Baltimore area or near the existing bridge. The third option was chosen and the second span was completed in 1973.
Since then, the number of cars using the bridges has continued to increase. In 2007, an estimated 27 million cars crossed the bridge vs. about 20 million in 1996 and, as the population of the region continues to grow, traffic can be expected to grow further. The existence of the bridges has stimulated development on the once-isolated Eastern Shore which, in turn, has contributed to increasing traffic.
In 2005, Governor Ehrich appointed a commission to study the feasibility and location of a third crossing. Four potential locations were identified but, with intense local opposition to each, the commission gave up and never attempted the political work of identifying a single location to recommend. Consequently, no action was ever taken.
And, of course, there is the issue of money - a new bay bridge would cost more than $2 billion dollars. If the bridge is built from Southern Maryland to the Eastern Shore, it could cost $3 billion due to the much longer crossing that would be required. Maryland, which is facing a transportation deficit of more than $1 billion already, simply doesn't have the money. Even if it did, there are more critical transportation issues than a third Bay crossing.
Despite these concerns, Maryland State Senator E.J. Pipkin has called upon Governor O'Malley to request yet another study. But, of course, Pipkin was a part of the 2005 commission which abdicated its responsibility by avoiding a recommendation. There's no reason to believe things would be any different now.