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Plans announced to thwart congestion on Nice Bridge

Friday - 8/12/2011, 4:34pm  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- A series of wrecks on the Gov. Harry Nice Memorial Bridge in recent weeks has left some residents who live nearby stuck in traffic for hours.

Now, local leaders have come up with a plan to help tackle the problem.

The narrow, two-lane bridge takes U.S. Route 301 across the Potomac River between Charles County in Maryland and King George County in Virginia. It has no shoulders and a reduced speed limit of 50 mph, plus tolls.

"Even a fender-bender causes massive tie-ups," says Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson.

Robinson says the bridge will not be replaced soon, so he and the Charles County Sheriff's Office have come up with several interim ideas to improve traffic.

In the immediate future, Robinson says folding detour signs will be put at crucial intersections near the bridge. In the event of a closure, the signs will be flipped down to direct traffic away from the bridge. They'll also be locked to ensure only sheriff's deputies can open them. Robinson expects the signs to be in place by the end of August.

Further, the county is considering constructing a large LED digital billboard at a distance north of the bridge, far "enough away so that if the bridge is closed, motorists would have ample time to make alternative plans or decide to stay and wait it out in say Waldorf or La Plata," says Robinson.

"That far north, you can also still have the option of crossing the Potomac by going back quite a number of few miles and crossing over the Wilson Bridge, and using 95 or Route 1 or any of the other north-south routes on the other side of the Potomac," he says.

Finally, Robinson would like to add a third, local lane on Route 301 prior to the bridge, allowing access to Charles County communities located nearby. He calls it a "connect-the-dots" plan because it would connect a current merge lane from Route 234 to an existing left turn lane for Route 257. A median would be added to keep bridge traffic out.

The environmental impact studies of the plan will be done within 90 days, and Robinson is hoping the state can provide funding because Route 301 is a state road.

To see a slideshow presentation of the detour plans, click here.

To see the alternative route plans, click here.

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