BALTIMORE, MD—The Board of the Maryland Transportation Authority on Thursday unanimously approved a statewide toll modernization plan and an accompanying package of new payment options that will save Marylanders more than $28 million over five years.
At a meeting in Baltimore, the Board also approved a contract for the MD 301 bridge replacement in southern Maryland and authorized $58 million to improve southbound Interstate 95 in Harford County.
“The toll reductions approved today deliver on Maryland’s commitment to help small businesses and the hard-working people who use our toll facilities for work, recreation and their daily commutes,” said MDTA Executive Director James F. Ports, Jr.
Provisions of the toll reduction package include a new Pay-by-Plate option, effective by June 2020, that allows tolls to be billed to credit cards at the same rate cash customers pay now. For the all-electronic Intercounty Connector/MD 200 and I-95 Express Toll Lanes, customers will pay 20 percent less than the video toll rate. In addition, new vehicle classes with lower rates will be in place by September 2020, providing a 50 percent reduction in tolls for motorcycles and reductions of 25 and 17 percent, respectively, for “light” vehicles towing one- and two-axle trailers. The package also includes a 15 percent discount for video tolling customers who pay the toll before their invoices are mailed. This payment option will be in place by December 2020.
The reductions are possible through a modernization plan that will upgrade toll-collection hardware and software and enhance customer service. The savings represent the latest round of toll relief under the Hogan Administration, resulting in up to $344 million in combined savings since 2014. For details of the toll modernization plan and to view the Public Comments Summary Report, go to mdta.maryland.gov/TollModernization/Home.
MDTA approves contract for Nice/Middleton Bridge
The Board also approved a $463 million contract for Skanska-Corman-McLean (SCM) Joint Venture to design and build the new US 301 bridge to replace the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge over the Potomac River, which is used by about 18,000 vehicles daily. The project is one of the state’s largest transportation initiatives and will improve mobility, safety and economic opportunities for southern Maryland, northeastern Virginia and the region. Virginia will contribute $13 million to the project.
“We’re implementing a major infrastructure project that’s affordable, invests in safety and will improve our citizens’ quality of life today – not years down the road,” said MDTA Chairman and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete K. Rahn
The Hogan Administration has long committed to building a new, wider and safer bridge to replace the 1.9-mile Nice/Middleton span, which opened in December 1940 and connects Charles County, Md., to King George County, Va. The project will replace the existing two-lane bridge with a new, four-lane span that will be aligned with the existing roadway approaches in Maryland and Virginia. The four, 12-foot-wide lanes with 2-foot shoulders will double capacity and improve safety, enhancing emergency response and maintenance/inspection activities.
SCM, a joint venture comprised of firms with local ties, had the highest rated proposal and the lowest bid price for the project. Construction will begin in early 2020 and will create more than 500 jobs. The new bridge is expected to open by 2023. The height of the new span will accommodate tall vessels, and it will have all-electronic (cashless) tolling. The bridge will have a 100-year service life.
“Virginia’s collaboration with Maryland on the Nice-Middleton Bridge illustrates how important cooperation is to creating seamless travel in the region,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The connectivity improvements on Route 301 will serve citizens and provide more reliable travel along this essential corridor.”
The new US 301 bridge project has been hailed by the local and regional community, including the adjacent Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, the area’s largest employer, and Naval Support Facility Indian Head.
“As commanding officer of two Navy bases directly affected by the bridge, this is great news and means the timeline for the new four-lane replacement remains on schedule.” said Capt. Michael O’Leary, Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity South Potomac. “We are appreciative of the great relationship we have with MDTA and look forward to supporting their continued efforts in bringing this project to completion.”
The MDTA had previously offered to make repairs to the bridge and turn it over to Charles County for a pedestrian/bicycle crossing, but county officials declined the offer. Due to Charles County’s decision, the existing bridge now will be demolished as part of this approved contract.
Materials from the demolished bridge will be used to create an artificial fish reef. In addition, MDTA and SCM are partnering with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission and Maryland Department of Natural Resources to fund oyster seeding in the lower Potomac River basin.
As part of the procurement process, MDTA requested a bid option to add a separated bicycle/pedestrian path to the new structure. The proposal from SCM would cost an additional $64 million for a separated path with limited daily use. After a thorough discussion and analysis, as well as public testimony, the board voted instead to move forward with a project to improve safety and capacity for thousands along the I-95 corridor.
To expand practical access, the new Nice/Middleton Bridge will include several safety enhancements for bicyclists, including bicycle-friendly roadway joints and intelligent transportation systems tools such as lighting and signage.
Board calls for $58 million upgrades on southbound I-95
Board members approved MDTA adding a $58 million project in its six-year capital program to widen a one-mile section of southbound I-95 in Harford County to maintain four lanes between Maryland House and MD 24. This section currently goes from four lanes to three lanes and back to four lanes causing severe bottleneck congestion.
This project is anticipated to eliminate nearly 18 hours of weekend congestion for more than 65,000 drivers, eliminating one of the state’s top 10 weekend bottlenecks.