Renovation work on the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge and a study to enlarge it continue as traffic stacks up along Route 4 and Route 235 most afternoons.
Now the Maryland State Highway Administration is looking to expand a shoulder along Route 4 to help draw that lineup off Route 235, the county commissioners were told Tuesday.
The Johnson bridge’s superstructure is being repainted and its concrete girders are being repaired. That $5.5 million project should be finished in the spring, said Darrell Mobley, acting secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, a $5.5 million study on how to enlarge or replace the bridge is about 80 percent finished, but there is no funding after the study is completed to move forward with plans for construction. Estimates of the cost on a new span start at $750 million.
The existing 140-foot-tall, two-lane bridge carries an average of 29,425 vehicles a day. By 2030, the daily traffic is expected to be 35,200.
The intersection of Route 235 and Route 4 is the busiest in St. Mary’s County and it is included in the bridge study. In the interim, District Engineer Lee Starkloff said the state aims to convert a shoulder of Patuxent Beach Road (Route 4) from Route 235 to Lous Way into an additional lane for traffic heading toward the bridge. The two northbound lanes would converge back into one past Lous Way, said Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for SHA on Thursday. The state expects it can do the work within its own right of way.
That work is estimated to cost $4 million, and there is no construction money for it yet. “We’re trying to deliver little things to that intersection leading up to the Thomas Johnson bridge projects,” Starkloff said.
“But we are moving ahead in that design,” said Melinda Peters, administrator for SHA.
The Johnson bridge opened in December 1977, but the current configuration of Patuxent Beach Road, which connects the bridge to Route 235 wasn’t finished until 1981.
Starkloff also addressed the intersection of St. Andrew’s Church Road (Route 4) and Wildewood Parkway in California. Wildewood residents and the county commissioners have requested a traffic signal there, as the neighborhood’s builder is not required to install one.
Three traffic studies have been done there, Starkloff said, but none of them found that a signal is warranted.
But now, “State highway is reconsidering a signal at that intersection and we should know something in the next couple of months or so,” he said.
Starkloff said he’s personally watched the intersection of Great Mills Road and Route 5 in Great Mills during the evening rush hour. There is a bottleneck there as traffic on both roads tries to move north on Route 5. Starkloff said another northbound lane is needed there, but “If we put another lane there we need a wider bridge” over the St. Mary’s River, he said, which comes at a much greater expense and requires more environmental permits.
When Starkloff observed the traffic, he said, “no one had to wait more than one [traffic-light] cycle” to get through the intersection.
But Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said, “I sat there last night for about three queues.”
The study on expanding Route 5 from Hollywood Road to Newtowne Neck Road in Leonardtown is about 75 complete, Peters said. The average daily traffic in that area is 26,800 and is anticipated to be 50,750 a day by 2030.