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AAA Calls For Changes In Severe Weather Policy On Bay Bridge

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s a call for changes to policy when it comes to severe weather and the Bay Bridge before it’s too late. It comes after drivers were trapped on the bridge in that sudden derecho storm.

Mike Hellgren explains who is calling for changes and why.

The Maryland Transportation Authority never takes closing the Bay Bridge lightly but after that experience during the derecho, they are testing tweaks to their policy, and AAA says changes are sorely needed.

The derecho that ripped through Maryland last month left a massive path of destruction and those trapped on the Bay Bridge during the storm never thought they’d live through it. Eighty-mile-an-hour winds toppled a tractor trailer and raised questions about the Maryland Transportation Authority’s decision to keep the bridge open.

“It’s dark. You’re sitting in a car, you’re looking over the guardrail and you see 10-foot whitecaps and there’s no place to go,” said Allan Charles, who was trapped on the bridge.

Lon Anderson with AAA wrote a strongly worded opinion to WJZ’s media partner, the Baltimore Sun, saying the Maryland Transportation Authority’s policy relying rigidly on a device to measure sustained winds didn’t account for the fast changes because of this storm and it should have.

“Here was an instance that was crying for an exception to the rule and the fact is you ended up with scores of motorists trapped and scared for their lives, thinking that it was over for them,” Anderson said.

In response, the Transportation Authority is testing a new policy that takes into account gusts of wind.

The bridge will shut down after three gusts of 55 miles an hour during a 10 minute period. The warning would go up after gusts of 30 miles an hour.

Transportation officials stress every storm is different but Anderson says that’s why flexibility is key to making decisions on bridge closures and keeping those who use the bridge safe.

“In this case, this storm–we knew what it was so there was no reason not to be flexible in policy there and say we better close the bridge to all traffic before that hits,” Anderson said.

That temporary wind gust policy is being evaluated. It’s expected to become permanent over the next few weeks. The Transportation Authority says safety is always their priority.

AAA is also pushing for barriers separating two-way traffic lanes.

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