Bay Bridge lanes close

State inspection follows fatal crash

August 19, 2008|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,Sun reporter

State transportation authorities shut down a portion of the Bay Bridge yesterday, continuing their probe of a fatal crash that sent a 40,000-pound tractor-trailer skidding along a section of jersey walls before breaking through and plummeting into the water near Kent Island.

Traffic on the two-lane eastbound span was closed from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to allow four inspectors to get a look at the underside of the structure from a pair of specialized bucket trucks known as snoopers, said engineer Geoffrey Kolberg, the chief engineer for the Maryland Transportation Authority, which oversees the heavily traveled twin spans. Plans call for inspectors to be on the bridge for three to four days this week, he said, depending on traffic.

"We're looking at everything, not just the site of the crash," Kolberg said. "This was a very major event. We have no doubt about the safety of the bridge, but we will do as thorough a job as possible. This is a very safe operation. But this investigation is not complete."

Truck driver John Robert Short, 57, of Willards was killed in the early hours of Aug. 10, during two-way traffic on the eastbound bridge. The crash marked the first time since the bay crossing opened in 1952 that a vehicle has plunged into the Chesapeake.

Cpl. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said he could not say how long the investigation might continue. According to police, the driver of an eastbound Chevrolet Camaro crossed the center lane and side-swiped the tractor trailer that was headed west with a load of processed chicken.

Investigators are awaiting results of blood-alcohol tests taken from the driver of the car, 19-year-old Candy Lynn Baldwin of Millington on the Eastern Shore.

Once transportation authority police complete their investigation, it will be reviewed by the state attorney general's staff, then forwarded to Queen Anne's County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil, Green said.

Officials were watching traffic on the bridge yesterday as all three lanes of the westbound span were opened for two-way traffic.

"We are monitoring the traffic carefully," Green said. "If we see backups, a decision could be made to stop the inspection. If the investigation has any adverse impact on traffic, we realize that this is a peak time of the year."

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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