At the Bay Bridge, an Accident and Its Aftermath

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Sunday was an awful thing ["Truck Driver Dies in Bay Bridge Crash; Two Other Motorists Are Injured; Incident Creates Traffic Nightmare," front page, Aug. 11]. Our first thoughts must be with the family of the trucker who died.

But Maryland's management of the incident is another thing. Although the accident occurred shortly before 4 a.m., by late afternoon Sunday, 12 hours after the crash, practically nothing had been done to manage the jam.

A high alert could have been sent to all radio stations asking them to warn people away from the bridge. Signboards could have been placed on Route 301 southbound before Queenstown, and many other locations, warning of the hours-long delay, allowing motorists to go to Interstate 95 and through Baltimore.

Many other measures could have reduced the jam. Traveling westbound, I could not see what had been done to divert the eastbound traffic toward Baltimore, but whatever it was, it wasn't working, considering the backup to the Severn River.

There were plenty of police around, but they typically do nothing about traffic. Where was the Maryland Department of Transportation? My sense is that the agency treated the traffic problem like the normal Sunday beach backup, which it quite obviously and painfully was not. As they used to say about railroad engineers, "They are trying to run a railroad, but the passengers just get in the way." Questions must be raised about emergency preparedness. How these incidents are managed provides valuable insight into how well we are organized for a variety of possible problems.



After watching local TV news about Sunday's fatal accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and reading about it in The Post, I found it very unfortunate that most drivers who were interviewed Sunday seemed to care only how the accident affected them and their "weekend plans."

The truck driver, John R. Short of Willards, Md., will no longer have the opportunity to enjoy "a full day at the beach" with anyone, regardless of whether anyone else's "beach day is wiped out." His fate was worse than missing an airline flight, as one traveler did. It is too bad that there was a delay on the bridge, but maybe a little thought should have been given to the loss that Mr. Short's family suffered.



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