All lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge re-opened for much of Monday evening, after a deadly tractor-trailer crash on Sunday morning. During the overnight hours, construction crews were back on the bridge, closing some lanes to continue repairing the damage.
On Monday, the chief engineer for the Maryland Transportation Authority, Geoffrey Kolberg, said nothing was wrong with the bridge structurally, calling the crash an 'anomoly.'
'The jersey walls are not designed to handle a 55 mile an hour, 80-thousand pound truck impact,' Kolberg said.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, John Short of Wicomico County, died in the crash when his rig crashed through the jersey wall of the older, eastbound span of the Bay Bridge and plunged into the Chesapeake Bay. At the time of the crash, traffic was moving in both directions on the two-lane eastbound span, because repair work had closed the westbound span. Kolberg's descripion of how the crash happened appears to place some of the blame on that configuration -- 'A car coming in the opposite direction crossed the center line, the truck tried to brake, brushed the right-hand parapet and then crossed the opposite direction of traffic and impacted on the parapet on the opposite side of the bridge,' he said.
A spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic said 70 percent of all fatal crashes on the Bay Bridge have happened when two-way traffic is in effect. 'With a typical roadway and two-way traffic, you'll have a shoulder. But on a bridge there's no shoulder, you're limited to one lane of traffic so motorists really cannot do anything to try to prevent an accident,' said AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise.
But the MdTA's engineer says traffic must be kept moving. 'The only way to keep the roadway open is to have a two-way on one of the bridges; it's not something that we'd do if we had a choice,' Kolberg said.
The crash backed up traffic for 10 miles on both sides of the bridge, leading to a renewed call for increased capacity -- in other words, a new Bay Bridge. In 2006, a study sponsored by the Maryland Transportation Authority highlighted four possible locations for a new span -- Zone One included possibilities running from Baltimore County to Kent County. Zone Two would include the site of the current bridge. Zones Three and Four were to the south, running from Anne Arundel or Calvert County to the Eastern Shore. The study did not favor any zone over another, and it did not reach a conclusion over when or whether a new bridge should be built. It did report that a bridge could cost as much as $5-billion, or possibly more depending on where construction would occur.
'It is possible that the issue will come up in the 2009 session. The appropriate legislative committees would have to take a look at it,' said Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael Busch
A portion of a tractor trailer is submerged under water after a deadly crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. On Monday many people gathered near the Bay to get a glimpse of the wreckage.
"I couldn't believe a truck of that size going off the bridge, especially a large truck like that," says Jene Carter, a Kent Island resident.
The accident happened Sunday morning at 4 when a three vehicle accident sent a tractor trailer crashing through the jersey wall and plunging 30 to 40 feet into the Bay. The truck driver, 57-year-old John Short of Willards, Maryland died in the accident.
Today those who use the Bay Bridge daily are feeling nervous about this accident.
"I drive a truck and I deliver on this side of the bridge. My main work is on that side of the bridge so it worries me," says Brian Carter, a Kent Island resident.
"It makes me anxious because I never thought about anybody going over the bridge, but now with it happening, it is definitely on your mind," says Jene Carter.
"I don't have a problem with driving on the bridge, in fact, I enjoy it. It's a nice way to come home, but I fell asleep on it just before I hit the wall and seeing that truck go through, it is pretty worrisome," says Rick Taylor, a Kent Island resident.
One eastbound lane is still closed. It's the area near the crash, where the wall is damaged. A collision reconstruction team is trying to figure out what caused this deadly accident.
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