Mikulski Calls for National Transportation Safety Board to Investigate Safety of Bay Bridge

Senator asks NTSB for recommendations on improving safety of existing spans of Bay Bridge as well as whether a new bridge is needed

July 24, 2013

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, today in a statement on the Senate floor and in a letter to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman called for the NTSB to investigate the safety of the Bay Bridge, including physical structure of the bridge, the traffic patterns of each span throughout the day and at peak travel times during the week and the year. Senator Mikulski also asked the NTSB to examine whether a new bridge is needed.  

"I'm more worried than ever before about safety on the Bay Bridge," Senator Mikulski said. "Traffic volume has increased and the velocity at which people travel has increased. One crash is too many. And now we've had two horrific crashed on the bridge in just a few days. That's why I'm asking for NTSB to review the accidents and give Governor O'Malley, Transportation Secretary Jim Smith and myself recommendations on what needs to be done so it doesn't happen again."  

Each year, an estimated 25.5 million trips are made across two spans that make up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The oldest span of the bridge was completed more than 60 years ago. The Eastbound span opened in July 1952. The Westbound span opened in 1973.  

Senator Mikulski's letter to NTSB Chairman Hersman follows:  

July 24, 2013  

The Honorable Deborah A. P. Hersman
Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
490 L'Enfant Plaza East, SW
Washington, DC 20594  

Dear Chairman Hersman:  

I am writing to urge you to investigate the safety of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge.   Many of my constituents, who rely on the bridge, are afraid to drive across it.  People should not fear for their lives when they travel across the Bay Bridge.  

In less than a week, there have been two crashes on the bridge that have raised serious concerns about its safety for the traveling public.  

On Friday, July 19, 2013, a driver of a sedan was rear ended by a tractor trailer exceeding the speed limit.  The tractor trailer pushed the sedan up into the air and over the side of the bridge.  The driver fell forty feet into the choppy waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  Luckily, the brave driver was physically fit and determined to swim to safety.   But what if she was traveling with a child or an elderly person?   

The second, on Monday, July 22, 2013, involved a minivan and pickup truck pulling a thirty-eight foot box trailer.  The two vehicles collided nearly head on.  The driver of the minivan had life threatening injuries and was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.  Fortunately, the driver's condition has improved and he is expected to survive.  

Even just one crash is one too many. And within a matter of a few days, we've had two very serious crashes.  This is why I request that you investigate both the physical structure of the bridge as well as the traffic patterns of each span.  I ask that you look at the traffic patterns throughout the day and peak travel times during the week and the year.  I want to work with you, Governor Martin O'Malley and Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith to determine how we can improve the safety of the existing spans but also examine whether it's time for a new bridge.  

This time of year, many Maryland families are crossing the Bay Bridge eager to begin their vacations on the Eastern Shore.  Others travel the bridge daily commuting to and from work on the Western Shore.  No matter where your destination, everyone should feel safe crossing the bridge and know that speed limits are being enforced.  

Thank you for your prompt attention to my request, and for your excellent work in investigating and preventing transportation crashes.   I look forward to working with you on this important safety issue.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator