Since as far back at 1907 there were proposals to build a span to connect the Eastern and Western Shores of Maryland. Many proposals were put forth after that with the current Sandy Point-Kent Island crossing being first proposed in 1938. The William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge was finally built in 1952.
By 1964 the span was already experiencing major traffic congestion with weekend summer peak traffic. An engineering study in 1965 was completed and reported on to the Governor and General Assembly by the State Roads Commission of Maryland. There were 3 possible locations given full consideration. 1) Miller’s Island, Baltimore to Tolchester, Kent County; 2) Sandy Point, Anne Arundel to Kent Island, Queen Anne’s; 3) Bertha, Calvert County to Taylors Island, Dorchester. The second of the above options was finally settled on and the 3 lane parallel span crossing the bay was completed in June 1973.
Fast forward to 2005, and yet another task force was assembled to deal with traffic and congestion on the Bay Bridge Crossing. This study looked at the three crossings already studied in 1964, but added yet another possible alternative, Calvert/Anne Arundel to Talbot. The conclusion of the study was that supplying a new span to transport cars was critical for “the economic vitality of the Lower Eastern Shore because it supports a tourism industry in Ocean City second only Baltimore in tourism dollars to the State.” There were public meetings held in all affected counties. The hearing held in Kent at Washington College had the highest attendance of any of the 5 public meetings, had the most public comment and had the highest turn number of comment cards. Some of the comments made were:
- The Task Force should explain the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study process and what actions citizens can take against building a bridge.
- Kent County is a historic community defined by its colonial heritage. A new bridge would irreversibly change the unique culture of the Eastern Shore and diminish Maryland’s diversity.
- The State used the Maryland Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation (MALPF), the rural legacy program and the Maryland Environmental Trust to preserve its rural-agricultural heritage. Would a bridge to Kent County take all this land out of preservation and destroy what citizens and the State have worked to protect over generations?
These are but a few of the prescient comments presented to the task force you can read others on page 57 of the report.
2017 brings another study, this one funded with $5 million in funds allocated by Governor Larry Hogan. The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) has launched the new Bay Crossing Study. The 1st public presentation on November 15th explained that this new study would increase the possible construction of a bridge to 6 areas. The original crossing points from the 2005 task force were retained, and an addition of a crossing Harford to Cecil and St. Mary to Somerset were added. This study is being touted as a Tier 1 Environmental Review Study with a 2-year time line to identify and publish a final decision in the summer of 2020.