The Fourth of July is traditionally a time of summer travel and family gatherings. As Marylanders plan for a long holiday weekend that may stretch from Friday, July 3, to Monday, July 6, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is urging everyone to travel with safety in mind, remembering not only rules of the road to keep travelers safe, but also precautions and preventive measures that are helping the state recover from the COVID-19 emergency.
“The Fourth of July has meaning for every American, and we want Marylanders to travel safely to enjoy the holiday with family and friends,” said Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater. “This year holds a particular safety concern as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Please be cautious as you enjoy small gatherings. Wear a mask or face covering, keep social distance and return home knowing you did everything you could to protect your family, friends and others.”
From the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland, residents are looking forward to spending the Fourth of July with friends and loved ones. Yet as traffic volumes and summer activities increase around the state, it’s important to slow down, be alert and allow extra time on state roadways.
It’s equally important to follow advice from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to continue the battle against COVID-19. MDH has launched a campaign reminding people that Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order requiring masks or face coverings inside retail establishments such as restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies – and when riding public transportation – is still in effect. For details, go to bit.ly/MDfacecoverings. People should continue these precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid those who are sick. If you are sick, stay home.
- Practice social distancing by keeping distance between yourself and others.
- Avoid large crowds.
“We understand wanting to be out and about with family and friends, especially after staying at home for such a long time,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “We’ve made great progress, but we need to remember we’re not out of the woods yet — all Marylanders must continue to exercise responsibility for themselves and each other by doing everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The MDOT Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is expecting high traffic volume during the holiday weekend. Motorists are encouraged to “leave early and stay late,” traveling off-peak to and from the Eastern Shore. Also, be alert for pedestrian and bicycle traffic around Fourth of July events.
MDOT SHA crews will suspend non-emergency lane and shoulder closures in high-volume regions across the state between Thursday, July 2, and Monday, July 6, and emergency patrols will be in place to assist disabled vehicles and clear incidents. Visit roads.maryland.gov for real-time traffic information.
For those traveling the Bay Bridge or other toll facilities over the Fourth of July weekend, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) is reminding drivers that there’s no stopping to pay tolls. All-electronic (cashless) tolling remains in effect statewide during the COVID-19 emergency.
At the Bay Bridge, tolls are recorded via a new gantry on the Kent Island side. Drivers are encouraged to use an E-ZPass transponder. Bay Bridge passenger-vehicle drivers without E-ZPass will be mailed a Notice of Toll Due for the temporary video toll rate of $4 (standard video toll rate is $6). The best times to travel the Bay Bridge will be the following off-peak hours:
- Friday, July 3 – before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
- Saturday, July 4 – before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
- Sunday, July 5 – before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
- Monday, July 6 – before 6 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
Weather and traffic volumes permitting, MDTA will use two-way operations to help alleviate eastbound delays at the Bay Bridge. Visit Baybridge.com to view real-time traffic cameras. For updates follow twitter.com/TheMDTA.
The MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office is reminding motorists that police will be out this weekend to stop suspected impaired drivers. In addition to risking injury or death for themselves or others, those driving under the influence risk arrest, jail time, extensive legal costs and fines.
MDOT is providing the following tips to keep travelers safe during the Fourth of July weekend:
- Buckle up. It’s the law. Make sure all passengers, including those in the back seat, are buckled up.
- Slow down. Observe all posted speed limits.
- Don’t drive impaired.If needed, designate a sober driver or use a taxi or ride service.
- Park the Phone. It’s illegal to text and use hand-held cell phones while driving in Maryland.
- Pay attention. Avoid distractions.
- Move over. Motorists are required to move over when approaching an emergency, service or utility vehicle or tow truck with red, yellow or amber flashing lights. If you can’t move over, slow down.
- Be patient. Travel during off peak hours and allow extra time for unexpected delays.
- Be prepared. In an emergency, those with cell phones can dial #77 to reach Maryland State Police. If your vehicle becomes disabled, pull off the highway as far as you can and call for help.
Passenger traffic increasing at BWI Marshall; COVID-19 precautions remain in place
A continued increase in passenger traffic is expected this weekend at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. It is anticipated that passenger traffic will reach levels last experienced in mid-March. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reopened the BWI Marshall’s Checkpoint C with limited hours during peak periods, a move intended to accommodate traffic and assist with social distancing in security checkpoints.
For those using BWI Marshall, the MDOT Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA) is reminding passengers that under COVID-19 procedures, the airport terminal remains closed except for ticketed passengers, badged employees and those providing assistance to passengers in need. Those picking up passengers are asked to park in the Hourly Garage to await the flight arrival or utilize the Cell Phone Lot.
In addition to regular cleaning, several protective measures are in place at BWI Marshall, including protective shields at document checking podiums and promotion of social distancing. Airport restaurant service remains limited, though some food and retail establishments have reopened in recent weeks. The use of face masks and coverings is strongly recommended throughout BWI Marshall. Most airlines now require face coverings in-flight, as well as in airline ticketing and boarding areas.
Travelers should also be aware of elements of the TSA’s “Stay Healthy, Stay Secure” campaign designed to contain the spread of COVID-19, comply with CDC guidelines and support healthy and secure summer travel. Elements include:
- Social distancing among travelers in the checkpoint line and among TSA officers.
- ID verification without physical contact between TSA officers and travelers.
- Plastic shielding at locations throughout the TSA checkpoint.
- Increased cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces and screening equipment.
- All TSA officers wearing masks and gloves.
- TSA officers changing gloves after each pat-down and at the request of any passenger.
- Allowance of one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers will need to remove the container from their bags before screening.
Transit service remains at reduced levels; face covering required
MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is urging customers to continue limiting transit use during the COVID-19 emergency. Those accessing transit must wear a mask or other face covering.
On Friday, July 3, Local Bus, Light Rail and Metro Subway will operate on a Sunday schedule. Commuter Bus Service will not operate Friday with the exception of bus Route 201. Route 201 will operate odd numbered trips on a weekend/holiday schedule.
Also on Friday, MARC Train Penn Line will operate on a Saturday schedule; the Camden or Brunswick lines will not operate. On Saturday and Sunday, MDOT MTA will operate bus, Light Rail, Metro Subway and MARC service on reduced schedules. For a list of services, go to mta.maryland.gov/coronavirus.
MDOT MTA is continuing enhanced disinfecting procedures of all vehicles and stations, including high-passenger touchpoint areas. Bus driver shields are used to create a barrier between bus operators and riders, and all operators are wearing personal protective equipment including face coverings.
MDOT urges everyone to have a safe and happy Fourth of July. For more information on MDOT’s COVID-19 response, go to mdot.maryland.gov/coronavirus. The site includes links to information on highways, transit, BWI Marshall Airport, the Port of Baltimore, MDOT MVA and other resources.