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Labor Day Travel, The Chesapeake’s “Dead Zone,” and Baltimore’s Casino Preps To Open

P. Kenneth Burns

Maryland’s roads are expected to be crowded over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. A look at travel projections from AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Maryland Transportation Authority… plus the latest on the Chesapeake Bay’s expanding “dead zone,” prep for tonight’s grand opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, and a look at a report on last year’s Rosedale train derailment. Also: O’Malley’s PAC sends workers to Iowa and New Hampshire, Vice President Biden fundraises for Anthony Brown, rates are expected to rise at two Baltimore parking garages, and more.

Labor Day Travel Projections: Maryland’s roads are expected to be crowded over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting that some 728-thousand Marylanders will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday period. That’s up 1.2 percent from last year, and represents the auto group’s highest Labor Day travel projection since 2008. And Marylanders won’t be the only drivers on our state’s roads; the Maryland Transportation Authority says it’s expecting more than 1.8-million motorists to use the state’s toll facilities between this Friday and Labor Day.That represents a two percent increase in volume from last year. The MdTA urges holiday travelers to drive during off-peak times to avoid delays.

Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone Grows: The so-called “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay is growing. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says the dead zone has reached its 8th largest size – some 1.32 cubic miles. Earlier this year, the zone had actually been at a record low… but as the Baltimore Sun reports, the heavy rains from earlier this month have helped it expand. The “dead zone” is that volume of bay water where there’s too little oxygen for fish to breathe. The stormwater runoff from this month’s rains – including millions of gallons of sewages from spills in Baltimore – have led to algae blooms, and as the algae dies and decomposes, it removes oxygen from the water, and makes the dead zone grow.

A Cool August: This August hasn’t only seen record rains – it’s also seen relatively low temperatures… and the Baltimore Sun reports that it’s on pace to be the third-coolest August on record. There’s only been one day this month that saw a higher-than-average temperature recorded at BWI. And highs haven’t broken the 90 degree mark yet this month. That could change tomorrow, with highs forecast to be in the upper 80s – and perhaps in the lower 90s – for Wednesday.

O’Malley’s PAC Sends Workers To Iowa, New Hampshire: Governor Martin O’Malley’s political action committee is sending workers to at least two states that play pivotal roles in the presidential nomination process. A spokesperson for O’Malley’s “O’ Say Can You See” PAC says that the move is part of an effort to help more Democrats get elected this year. But O’Malley is considering a bid for the presidency in 2016 – and the Washington Post reports that this sort of work is consistent with someone laying the groundwork for the nation’s top office. The only states the PAC will confirm are getting the staffers are New Hampshire and Iowa, which hold the nation’s first presidential primary and caucuses, respectively. About two dozen staffers will be involved. The Daily Record has more.

Biden Headlines Brown Fundraiser: Vice President Joe Biden will be headlining a fundraiser for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial campaign today in Washington DC. It’s a small gathering – with only 25 people set to attend – but it’s one that’s expected to reap big rewards… the Washington Post reports that up to $350-thousand could be raised. Brown, a Democrat, is vying with Republican Larry Hogan in the November gubernatorial election. The Baltimore Sun has more here.

Baltimore’s Casino Opens: Casino gambling comes to downtown Baltimore tonight. State regulators yesterday approved the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. The Russell Street facility opens its doors to the public at 9pm… featuring 25-hundred slot machines and 122 table games. Transportation officials expect congestion around the Russell Street facility, and are urging gamblers to take the Charm City Circulator to the casino’s doors. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Daily Record. In related news, a former VIP host at the Baltimore Casino’s “primary competitor” – the Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County – has been stealing a list of high rollers and using it to recruit gamblers for the Baltimore casino, where she now works. The woman allegedly copied a list of Maryland Live!’s one-thousand best clients and sent a mass email inviting them to come gamble at the Baltimore casino. On Friday, a federal judge issued an emergency order directing the woman and anyone else to stop using the information she's alleged to have stolen. The judge has scheduled another hearing on the matter for Friday. More on this story here from the Baltimore Business Journal, here from the Capital Gazette, and here from the Baltimore Sun.

Factual Report On Rosedale Train Derailment Released: A factual report on the train derailment and explosion that happened in Rosedale last May was released yesterday. The report indicates that the explosion and chemical fire that came after the train hit a dump truck and went off the tracks wer so powerful that very little of the railroad car that blew up was left. Some pieces of the car landed as far as 370 feet away. The report was conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board. And it contains the first detailed information about the chemicals that were released in the incident – which included more than 200-thousand pounds of sodium chlorate and nearly 800-thousand pounds of powdered terephthalic acid. According to the Baltimore Sun, the report shows that chemical levels in the area were found to be within normal limits… but also found measurable levels of chemical contaminants in surface water and sediment samples downstream from the site. A final report is expected to be released “soon.”

Parking Rates To Rise At Two Baltimore Garages: Parking rates are likely to go up at two garages in Downtown Baltimore. The Arena Garage is expected to see its rate for folks who park between 4 and 12 hours go from $14 to $15. And at the Market Garage, early bird rates will go up from $6 to $7 and the fee for folks who park between 4 and 12 hours will go from $8 to $9. The Baltimore Sun reports that the city’s Board of Estimates is expected to sign off on those rates tomorrow.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles trounced the Tampa Bay Rays in last night’s game; the score was 9 to 1. The two teams continue their series tonight at Camden Yards, with a game set to start at 7:05pm.

Washington Baseball: The Washington Nationals lost their game against the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday; the score there was 3 to 2.

WYPR's Morning Edition news anchor Ashley Sterner serves up the latest Maryland news and weather every weekday morning, delightfully interspersed with the occasional snarky comment.