Heavy traffic was reported on the Highways into the Washington area yesterday as the Fourth of July weekend came to a close, but for the most part travelers returned home without the massive tie-ups that in many recent years have marred the final hours of the holiday.
Maryland and Virginia authorities said that early evening traffic on their major arteries was moving with surprising ease and that the usual leap in highway fatalities was less severe than in recent years.
By midnight, 11 people had been reported killed on Virginia roads since 6 p.m. Thursday, compared with a record 24 deaths a year ago. In Maryland, seven people had lost their lives in traffic accidents, compared with 10 fatalities last year. There had been no fatalities in the District.
One exception to the generally smooth sailing came at a predictable place, the Kent Narrows Bridge along Rte. 50 in Maryland, about six miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The delays began when traffic coming from the Atlantic Ocean resort areas backed up while the drawbridge was raised, said Bernie Jedrowicz of the Maryland Transportation Authority.
Because of the heavy holiday traffic, the usual on-the-hour openings of the drawbridge were stopped after 1 p.m. yesterday, and all openings were ended after 3:30 p.m. Nonetheless, Jedrowicz said, the usual rush home from the seashore began earlier in the day this year than in the past -- apparently because of morning rain at the beaches -- and traffic backed up for several miles in the afternoon while the bridge closed for periods as long as 17 minutes to allow boat traffic through the narrows.
The drawbridge is scheduled to be eliminated with the completion of a replacement bridge with a 65-foot clearance by 1992, Jedrowicz said.
Just down the road, traffic over the Bay Bridge -- often the source of delays -- was flowing smoothly, with no traffic count exceeding 3,000 vehicles per hour, Jedrowicz said.