New Nice Bridge MD-VA moves forward
By Peter Samuel
Maryland toll authority (MdTA) has completed planning and permitting for a replacement span for the US301 Nice Bridge, presently just two 11ft lanes with an approach grade of 3.75% and a 1940 thru-arch design. Carrying the rural arterial US301 it links Dahlgren VA and Newburg MD over the Potomac River 36 miles south of the Mall in Washington DC as the crow flies.
The bridge carries average annual daily traffic of 18,500 vehicles per day, 15% heavy trucks. The approach roads both sides are 2x2 12ft lanes. The merges required make the bridge a high accident location - over 200 crashes per billion vehicle miles traveled versus under 90/billion vmt for other arterial standard roadways in the state.
The bridge deck will need renewal in about ten years time and would require awkward alternating direction single lane traffic and expensive night work.
A new bridge is the way to go, the planning studies showed.
To be built right alongside existing bridge
That bridge will be located immediately north of the existing span and will be 2x2 lanes plus shoulders and a pedestrian/bike lane each side. There has been a 'fonsi' or finding of no significant impact that allows the project to proceed without further environmental review.
The bridge will have a deck of 107ft, 33m providing full 12ft lanes, 12ft rightside shoulders, 4ft offsets from a central barrier, and two 10ft pedestrian/bike paths.
Over an estuarial stretch of the Potomac River downstream of Washington DC,the bridge is 1.7 miles long and has about 30 spans, the longest over the shipping channel being 800ft with 136ft underside clearance.
The 72 year old bridge will be sold for scrap iron.
Cost of the new bridge has been estimated by MdTA as $850m.
The overwater portion of the bridge is Maryland territory because the state boundary follows the high water mark on the Virginia shore.
No financing plan yet
There is no financing plan for the new bridge or any traffic and revenue study.
The Nice bridge generates a mere $11.5m/year in toll revenue at present (versus total MdTA revenues of $390m), with tolls collected only one direction, southbound.
Current cash tolls are $4.00 for cars going to $6.00 July 1 2013. The Maryland E-ZPass toll is $3.60 going to $5.40 mid-2013.
There is also a nice Nice frequent user or commuter plan that at 25 trips per month is $1.00, going to a less nice Nice commuter plan starting mild-2013. That provides commuter tolls of $2.10 at 7 or more trips per month.
5-axle trucks pay $24.
the bridge is named after a nice Maryland Governor Harry M. Nice. He was governor when the bridge opened.