Maryland will receive a $200-million federal loan to help fund a replacement for the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial/Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton Bridge across the Potomac River, ending concerns that the state would have to revise its funding strategy for the $463-million project.

The U. S. Dept. of Transportation’s March 15 approval of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan comes nearly two years after the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) submitted its application for funding assistance to replace the 80-year-old, two-lane bridge connecting southern Maryland with King George County, Va. MdTA announced the approval on March 24.

A joint venture of Skanska, Corman Kokosing Construction Co. and McLean Contracting Co. began construction of a new 1.9-mile four-lane tolled structure in mid-July 2020.

At a December 2021 MDTA board meeting, agency officials speculated that the holdup stemmed from safety concerns after plans for a barrier-separated dedicated lane for cyclists and pedestrians were dropped as a cost-cutting measure. Had the loan application been delayed further or rejected, the agency was prepared to look to bond sales or other financing mechanisms.

Scheduled to open this fall, the new bridge will feature 12-ft-wide lanes with 2-ft-wide shoulders, doubling its capacity and improving safety as more motorists look for alternatives to the Interstate-95 corridor between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va.

The structure will also provide more than $2 million worth of features to accommodate safe lane sharing for cyclists, as well as a main span high enough to accommodate tall vessels.

Following completion of the new bridge, the old bridge will be demolished and the debris used to create an artificial fish reef. MDTA and the project team also are joining with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission and Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources to fund oyster seeding in the lower Potomac River basin.