The project, which took seven months, was completed far ahead of its initial two-year schedule. Hogan ordered the work to be accelerated last fall after massive traffic jams ensued on both sides of the bridge.
In addition to lighter traffic, Hogan credited round-the-clock shifts and warm weather for helping to accelerate the work. State transportation officials also have said they saved time by requiring contractors to add crews and continue work through the busy Thanksgiving travel week.
“The folks on the [Eastern] shore that were having difficulty getting back and forth, hopefully that part of the problem is behind us, and we can get on to other things,” Hogan said Wednesday on WGMD News Radio.
In a news release, Hogan added that while state officials are focused on the public health crisis, “ … It’s important to celebrate the reopening of the westbound right lane of the Bay Bridge because for me it represents the spirit, dedication and work ethic that will see our state through any crisis.”
Hogan has designated construction, including residential and private development, as “essential” and those workers exempt from his stay-at-home order.
The $27 million bridge project entailed replacing the concrete bridge deck in the westbound span’s right lane, which state transportation officials said had badly deteriorated to the point of becoming unsafe.
The four-mile bridge is the main crossing between the Baltimore-Washington region and the Eastern Shore, both for Eastern Shore commuters heading west for work and for eastbound beachgoers who pack it on weekends throughout the spring, summer and fall.
The repair work brought unprecedented misery, as motorists trying to get around the backups on U.S. 50 approaching the bridge jammed side roads on Kent Island. School buses were late, and local businesses said they suffered because customers and employees could not reach them.
Traffic also backed up in the Annapolis area when the westbound span could not be opened for two-way operations to accommodate late afternoon and evening traffic headed back to the Eastern Shore.
Work remains on schedule to begin all-electronic tolling on the bridge by summer, officials said. Doing so will reduce backups by allowing all motorists to proceed without having to stop at toll booths. Motorists without an E-ZPass transponder will be mailed a bill based on a photo of their license plate.
Some work will continue in the westbound span’s center and left lanes during overnight and off-peak hours, but “minimal” traffic delays are expected, officials said. Workers also are continuing to replace overhead signal gantries on the westbound span.
The lighter traffic volumes also are allowing workers to speed up the installation of automated gates along westbound U.S. 50 on the Eastern Shore that will allow maintenance crews to start and cut off two-way traffic on the span more safely and quickly, officials said. That work will entail single lane closures on or approaching the bridge during midday and off-peak hours.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater commended contractors “for rising to the challenge” of finishing the work amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“This will be one less thing for Marylanders to be concerned about as we rise out of our health crisis,” Slater said.