Vintage postcard of the Bay Bridge. Image from the Boston Public Library.

Smart Growth Maryland: Alternatives to New Chesapeake Bay Crossing Should be Considered

By Kimberly Golden Brandt

In fall of 2017, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) initiated the Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study to study the potential location for a third Bay Bridge crossing. The impact of a such a massive project could have a profound impact on the historic landscape of the Eastern Shore and is an issue Smart Growth Maryland is dedicating significant effort toward.

The study is expected to be completed in 2020. Thus far, MDTA has conducted a series of public meetings focused on the scope and purpose of the study. In its comment letter on the issue, Smart Growth Maryland noted the narrow focus of the study and has called upon MDTA to consider a range of alternatives for easing congestion – not just construction of a new crossing. The short-term nature of the relief provided by infrastructure capacity projects is well documented. That, combined with the expense and time-frame for a construction project of this scale, warrants thoughtful consideration of other options.

Sprawling residential development on Kent Island.

Smart Growth Maryland also expressed concern with the development that will inevitably result from a new crossing. For decades the State of Maryland and local governments have made a considerable investment in smart growth – directing development to established communities, protecting cultural and historic resources, and preserving farmland and forests. Kent Island is a powerful example of the considerable development pressure that a new crossing will create and how a transportation project of this scale fosters local land use decisions that are fundamentally contrary to the principles of smart growth.

The construction of a new crossing and new access roads or major upgrades to existing roads will also hinder Maryland’s goal of achieving a 40% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2030. The transportation sector is Maryland’s largest generator of greenhouses gases, which contribute to climate change. Investment in alternatives to new bridges and roads and car-dependent development has never been more critical. The impacts of climate change are being experienced in Maryland, especially on the Eastern Shore where sea level rise and subsidence are resulting in considerable land loss.

In the coming months, the MDTA will identify the corridors it has selected for further study, with additional public meetings expected to be announced. Smart Growth Maryland will continue to track this study, provide updates as it progresses, and advocate for smart solutions to Maryland’s transportation challenges.

Learn more about Smart Growth Maryland

Kimberly Golden Brandt · Director of Smart Growth Maryland

Kim Brandt leads Smart Growth Maryland, a project of Preservation Maryland, dedicated to the preservation of forests, farms and open space, and revitalization of Maryland’s cities and towns.

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