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Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Nov. 21 that the Maryland Transportation Authority Board has approved $50 million in its final six-year capital program to fund initial design and right-of-way acquisition for the project to replace the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, which connects Charles County and King George County, Va., across the Potomac River.

“Together, with the support of local elected officials and federal partners, we are making a significant down payment on a wider, safer and more pedestrian-friendly Nice Bridge,” O’Malley (D) said in a news release. “Southern Maryland residents have long waited for a new bridge, and this $50 million investment brings the new bridge one step closer to reality. There is more work to be done, but I commend the leadership of U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer and Maryland Senator Thomas ‘Mac’ Middleton for working with the State to advance this crucial project.”

The new four-lane bridge will be built parallel to and north of the existing bridge.

The new bridge also will have a two-way bicycle and pedestrian path. The existing bridge will be removed upon completion of the new bridge. A designated path on each shore will guide bicyclists and pedestrians to the appropriate outside shoulder along US 301.

Currently, 17,900 vehicles cross the bridge each day, with traffic projected to increase to 37,000 vehicles per day by 2030. The planning phase of the project was completed in fall 2012.

“I’m pleased Gov. O’Malley announced today $50 million in funding for design and right-of-way acquisition for the Nice Bridge replacement, which will benefit Southern Maryland residents, businesses and commuters once completed,” Hoyer (D-Md. 5th) said in the release. “Improving our infrastructure and ensuring that it is safer and more user-friendly is critically important to spurring economic growth in our communities.”

“I am immensely grateful for the Transportation Authority’s action to allocate $50 million to the Harry Nice Bridge project,” Middleton (D-Charles) said in the release. “This is one giant step in making the bridge replacement a reality. I will continue to work with the Authority to move this project forward as money becomes available and appreciate that it has been identified as their number one expansion priority.”

With today’s announcement, the MDTA plans to spend $56.1 million between fiscal years 2014-2019 for initial design and the purchase of right of way needed in both Maryland and Virginia for a new Nice Bridge.