MDOT WARNS COMMUTERS, TRUCKERS: HIGH WINDS AND SNOW COULD CLOSE BRIDGES AND SLOW SHIPS TO THE PORT OF BALTIMORE

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Snow Expected from Early Evening through Morning Rush Hour

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Transit Service, Highways, Bridges and Port Business/Cruises

January 3, 2018

(Hanover, MD) – The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) urges commuters and truckers to make a plan for the overnight snow storm.  The first impact could be felt on truckers picking up container shipments at the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore. Due to high winds, the U.S. Coast Guard will not allow any ships to enter the Chesapeake Bay after 6 p.m. tonight through Friday morning. The next greatest impact will be felt by commuters trying to navigate through drifting snow in tomorrow’s morning rush hour as snow is expected to continue through 9 a.m. While MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) will be out in force overnight, once rush hour starts tomorrow morning, plows will be sitting in the same traffic as commuters. 

MDOT is prepared with all forces on hand to get our transportation network up and running safely and efficiently as quickly as possible,” said Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn. “Keep an eye on the news, social media and outside your window…if we’re telling you it’s bad, please stay home and give us time to clear the roads, the rails and the runways.”

At this time, two ships are on schedule to meet the 6 p.m. deadline arriving at the Port to be unloaded and trucked out tomorrow at the Port’s public marine terminals as long as conditions allow. If the storm passes more quickly than expected, the Coast Guard can lift restrictions. Crews are pre-treating and salting the public marine terminals today. No cruise ships are scheduled to leave from the Port of Baltimore until Sunday, January 7. 

As challenging as it is for ships to get up the Chesapeake Bay due to the Coast Guard’s high wind restrictions, Marylanders on the Eastern Shore will face similar challenges facing high winds trying to get over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Commuters and truckers, who must travel, should expect wind warnings and restrictions at the Bay Bridge and other MDTA bridges as the storm is forecast to have strong wind gusts.  Wind warnings are sustained wind speeds of 30-39 mph for 10 mins or more; or wind gusts that persistently exceed 30 mph over 15 minutes. Wind restrictions begin to take effect at 40 mph. Traffic holds can go into effect at 55 mph. See below for a full explanation of wind warnings and restrictions.*

On the Eastern Shore where up to 10 inches is forecast, MDOT SHA has pre-treated Lower Shore counties’ highways (Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Dorchester) with ample residual salt remaining on many highways west of the lower shore from last week’s storm. Since the storm is predicted to produce more than six inches, truckers are invited to ride out the storm at select park and ride locations.  Here is the link: http://roads.maryland.gov/pages/emergencytruckparking.aspx?PageId=856

With this storm pushing water inland, crews are carefully watching high tides that can inundate some low-lying roads, creating icy, slippery roads. MDOT SHA emergency operators and maintenance staff closely will monitor roads and patrol for icy patches as temperatures drop. Using cutting-edge technology, such as infrared pavement sensors, crews can target areas needing retreatment, and management can determine appropriate deployment of people and resources.

If you have to go to work, transit might provide a good alternative to driving in the snow.  To get the latest on the status of MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) services from MARC and Commuter Bus to buses, mobility vehicles, Metro Subway and Light Rail, check for updates on Twitter, radio and MDOT MTA’s website at mta.maryland.gov.

Marylanders traveling out of town should contact their airlines for updated flight status information. There will be airline flight cancellations due to storm conditions locally and throughout the northeast. ​A number of airlines have issued relaxed change policies ahead of the winter weather in the east. Customers should contact their airlines for details.

The Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI Marshall) snow team is prepared and will be working hard starting this evening to perform snow removal operations on airport runways and taxiways; and contract personnel will be removing snow from roadways and public parking lots. The airport utilizes about 55 specialized pieces of major equipment for snow removal operations, including several high-speed, multi-functional vehicles that each have plow, sweeper, and jet blower operations capability.  BWI Marshall also owns eight snow melters. Each snow melter is capable of melting 135 tons of snow per hour.

Remember that the snow could result in MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) having to close branch offices or cancel driving skills tests.  Customers should check the MDOT MVA website and social media for updated information on closures or driving skills test cancellations. Outside of the driving test, remember customers can conduct numerous transactions online at mva.maryland.gov, including:  Registration Renewals; ID Card Renewals; Driver’s License Renewals; Duplicate Title; Duplicate Registration; Change of Address; E-ZPass; Vessel Registration Renewal; and License Plate Purchase/Replacement.

*On all MDTA bridges, wind warnings and restrictions would be implemented as outlined below:
  • Wind Warnings (sustained wind speeds of 30-39 mph for a continuous period of 10 mins or more; or wind gusts that persistently exceed 30 mph over a period of 15 mins) operators of house trailers, box trailers, motorcycles, vehicles with roof-mount racks containing cargo or any other vehicle that may be subject to high winds are advised to use caution while traveling across the bridge.
  • Limited Wind Restrictions (sustained wind speeds of 40-49 mph for a continuous period of 10 mins or more; or wind gusts that persistently exceed 40 mph over a period of 15 mins) house trailers, empty box trailers or any vehicle that, in the opinion of law-enforcement personnel, may not safely cross the bridge will be prohibited from traveling the bridge. Motorists who are denied passage will be assisted with safely turning around.
  • Full Wind Restrictions (sustained wind speeds exceeding 50 mph for a continuous period of 10 mins or more; or wind gusts that persistently exceed 50 mph over a period of 15 mins) only automobiles, pickup trucks, flatbed trailers, commercial buses and heavy-laden tractor/trailers are permitted to cross the bridge. Tractor-box trailer combinations will not be permitted to cross any bridge if the gross weight is less than 64,000 pounds.
  • Traffic Holds/Bridge Closure (sustained wind speeds exceeding 55 mph for a continuous period of 10 mins or more; or wind gusts that persistently exceed 55 mph over a period of 15 mins) In the event of a sudden increase of sustained wind speeds or wind gusts that could jeopardize life or property, the MDTA may elect to discontinue the movement of all traffic across the bridge.
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