State Acted To Ease Toll GridlockI am writing to clarify...


September 12, 1993

State Acted To Ease Toll Gridlock

I am writing to clarify some issues raised in the Aug. 23 editorial "Gridlock on I-95." The editorial notes back-ups occurring on Friday evenings and on Saturdays northbound at ** the Kennedy Highway (Interstate 95) toll plaza just north of the Millard E. Tydings Bridge over the Susquehanna River.

The primary reason for these back-ups is the enormous volume of traffic passing through the toll plaza on weekends. As the editorial notes, this traffic has increased by some 10 percent in the last four years.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the Kennedy Highway facility, had projected such increases several years ago, and as a first step to expedite the flow of traffic went to a one-way toll collection system in October of 1991.

The southbound toll was eliminated, and this solved the problem of southbound traffic congestion in the area of the toll plaza.

To address the projected increases in northbound traffic, we embarked on a project to add more toll lanes -- from the original configuration of seven lanes to 12. It is the on-going construction work necessary to expand the toll plaza to 12 lanes which has exacerbated the traffic problem.

Recently, an eighth toll lane was completed and opened, which has reduced the congestion to some degree. A ninth lane is being opened. All construction is to be completed by the end of September, providing a total of 12 lanes in the northbound direction. . . .

I think the Transportation Authority has taken extraordinary steps to alert th public of the situation and to offer reasonable alternatives.

Your editorial quite correctly admits that it is difficult to advise of detours off the main line to an audience which consists of 85 percent interstate travelers, who may use our facility only once or twice a year.

Indeed, it can be very difficult to alter motorists' travel patterns and habits, especially if they are following a routing prepared in advance by a travel or motoring club.

But even in that situation, the Transportation Authority has made every effort to forewarn motorists of the problem and to advise of an alternate route.

Beginning on northbound I-95 south of the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), the authority has placed several variable message signs which advise of the delays and suggest the use of U.S. 40 as an alternate route.

There is also a sign directing traffic off I-95 at Route 22, with a follow-up system of signs guiding traffic to U.S. 40, east across the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge and back to I-95 north of the congestion.

We have also installed a traffic advisory radio system along the highway, which is an independent AM radio frequency used to broadcast information regarding any back-up and suggesting alternate routes. . . . Over the past several years, the Transportation Authority has devoted a great deal of attention and effort to make the Kennedy Highway visually attractive, safer and more convenient for our users.

These efforts include adding a fourth lane in each direction from I-695 for 15 miles to Route 24, modifying improving constructing interchanges and resurfacing the highway from the Baltimore Beltway to the Delaware line.

All of these improvements, as well as the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the highway, are funded by the tolls our customers pay to travel on the highway.

While we certainly regret that this necessary work to further improve the highway has caused inconvenience and delays for our out-of-state travelers, we must candidly say that the majority of them have endured the situation with great patience and understanding.

It is ironic that a project designed to greatly increase capacity at the toll plaza . . . should result in the congestion we have experienced.

However, I strongly feel that the authority has been very aggressive in providing relief to the extent possible, and I am confident that upon the completion of the project next month major back-ups due to a lack of sufficient toll lanes will be a thing

of the past.

Stephen L. Reich


The writer is executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Baltimore Lords

Ravens? Birds of ill omen, of crafty, sly and thieving reputation, ugly as sin and eaters of carrion?

Come on now! Baltimore Lords is much better, even if I doubt the earlier lords founded Baltimore City, as your writer suggested.

Mary H. Cadwalader


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