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Accident on Bay Bridge Still Under Investigation

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(Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

(Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Transportation Authority is still investigating whether a tractor-trailer that overturned on the Bay Bridge should have been traveling across it in the first place, officials said Thursday.

The truck overturned Wednesday afternoon as the mid-Atlantic region was being pelted with rain and violent winds. Wind restrictions were in place at the time, and drivers were warned about the restrictions on overhead signs as they approached the bridge. Numerous trucks were parked on either side because they were not permitted to cross the span, said Cheryl Sparks, a spokeswoman for the authority, which operates the bridge.

At the time, wind gusts were measured between 40 and 49 mph, which means a tractor-trailer with a full load still would have been permitted to cross the bridge. Officials declined to say Thursday whether the trailer was carrying a full load because the crash remains under investigation.

Shortly after the wreck, a gust was measured at 55 mph, which led the authority to close the bridge. It remained closed for several hours.

Sparks said Thursday that the wind policy worked as intended and noted that it’s up to drivers to police themselves while the bridge remains open with restrictions. Police officers are stationed at both ends of the bridge during storms but will only pull over trucks that are obviously violating the policy, she said.

“First and foremost, it’s incumbent upon the driver to know the status of any wind conditions or restrictions and to operate according to what those wind restrictions dictate,” Sparks said.

After a violent storm known as a derecho last summer, the authority upgraded the equipment that it uses to monitor wind speeds on the bridge and tightened its closure policy to account for gusts and not just sustained winds.

John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the driver likely erred by deciding to cross the bridge. Still, he said, it may be time to revisit the wind policy.

“No matter what restrictions you put in place, you cannot mandate common sense,” Townsend said. “We also need to look at the policy because this is a wake-up call for all of us about how powerful these elements can be. We’ve had two wake-up calls in the past year.”

The Bay Bridge connects the Eastern Shore with central Maryland. It has two spans that stretch about 4 miles. The original span opened in 1952 and the second in 1973.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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