Government-imposed restrictions, fear and the convenience of virtual work decongested America’s roadways during the worst of the pandemic, but Maryland drivers are taking back to the streets in recent weeks.
In the week preceding the Fourth of July weekend, highway traffic in parts of Maryland surpassed 2019 levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic — a milestone in the state’s return to pre-COVID travel, according to a news release from the governor’s office Monday.
Statewide highway travel fell by as much as 50 percent amid the pandemic, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation. But traffic volume has risen recently with the arrival of summer vacation season, COVID cases declining, vaccines increasing and Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to lift the statewide emergency, according to state officials.
For the first time since the start of the pandemic, average daily traffic volume for a week-long span surpassed 2019 levels. Traffic numbers increased 0.4 percent from two years ago for the week leading into the Fourth of July weekend, according to state officials. A prominent patch of highway in the Baltimore area — the stretch of the Baltimore Beltway between I-895 and U.S. 1 — saw 5 percent more average daily traffic, or roughly 6,500 more cars each day, during that week in 2021 than in 2019.
Daily traffic on the Capital Beltway at the American Legion Bridge was up 0.26 percent, or 577 more cars per day.
Average daily traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge increased by 0.92 percent, or 814 cars, between the same time frame, and the number of drivers passing through Maryland Transportation Authority bridges and toll facilities surpassed 2019 volumes for the first time since March 2020.
“Marylanders are getting back to business and back to their lives with growing confidence,” Department of Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said in a news release.
Still, while the first week of July featured higher average daily traffic numbers than in 2019, weekly averages remain up to 10 percent below 2019 figures.