Aaa Urges Limit On 2-way Bay Bridge Traffic

August 11, 2009|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,matthew.brown@baltsun.com

AAA renewed a call to limit two-way traffic on the Bay Bridge on Monday, the first anniversary of the accident that sent a truck driver plunging to his death in the water below.

"Two-way traffic on the bridge continues to frighten a number of motorists," said Ragina C. Averella, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "We're urging the Maryland Transportation Authority to minimize the use of two-way traffic, to use it only when absolutely necessary, and - most importantly - to find acceptable barrier separation technology that they can use on the bridge."

Truck driver John Robert Short, 57, of Willards was killed early on Aug. 10, 2008, after he swerved to avoid an oncoming Chevrolet Camaro that had crossed over the center line on the eastbound span, which at the time was being used for two-way traffic for U.S. 50. His tractor-trailer is the only vehicle to have fallen off the 4.3-mile bridge in its 57-year-history.

The driver of the Camaro, Candy Lynn Baldwin of Millington, then 19, told police she had fallen asleep at the wheel. She has since paid traffic fines but faces no criminal charges. In June, Short's family filed a $7 million lawsuit against Baldwin.

According to AAA, 70 percent of fatal accidents on the bridge occur when traffic is allowed to flow in both directions on a single span. Ordinarily, eastbound traffic is confined to the southern span of the bridge and westbound to the northern span.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority said she could not discuss the role that two-way traffic might have played in the accident last August, but that the scheme is sometimes necessary during periods of high volume in one direction or when one of the spans is shut down for construction or an emergency.

Averella praised the state for undertaking safety improvements since the crash. "Motorists can breathe a little easier knowing that the state is strengthening the parapet on the bridge's eastbound span," she said. "This will save lives and maximize the safety of those using the bridge."

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