OCEAN CITY – Preliminary repair work continued on the Route 50 Bridge this week but it remains uncertain just when the span will be closed to all traffic for an estimated 35 days early next year.
Major repairs are needed on the bridge into the south end of Ocean City including replacing four gears on the draw span and completely removing the grid deck and replacing it with an overlay. The repairs are needed sooner rather than later and will take an estimated 35 days, meaning the span will be completely closed to vehicle traffic for at least that long and an estimated 45 days for marine traffic.
The proposed plan includes closing the bridge from mid-January to mid-February although the exact dates remain uncertain. Resort business leaders and elected officials have urged the State Highway Administration (SHA) to consider moving up the start date to help ensure the bridge’s pending closure does not overlap with Presidents Day weekend, traditionally one of the busiest weekends of the winter in the resort area.
The big three all fall around the same four-day span next year starting with Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14. The Seaside Boat Show runs from Friday, Feb, 15–17 and the official Presidents Day holiday falls on Monday, Feb. 18. The trio has combined to become one of the busiest weekends of the winter in the resort area and the local business community, particularly those in close proximity to either side of the span, has raised grave concerns about the potential impact of the bridge being closed during that stretch on the calendar.
SHA officials have made an attempt to move the start date for the project closer to the beginning of January in an effort to have it completed before the big weekend in mid-February, but the official dates of the project are subject to a variety of factors including the delivery of needed construction materials to the site, according to SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer.
“We’re keenly aware of everybody’s concern about getting this project underway in a timely fashion and we’re making every attempt to minimize the impact,” he said this week. “Right now, we’re just waiting on a confirmed date from the contractor on the delivery of materials. Once we know when the materials for the project will be delivered to the site, we can fine-tune our construction schedule.”
Drewer’s comments this week echo what he told the Ocean City Mayor and Council about the proposed bridge closure during a meeting earlier this month.
“We will work as hard and as fast as we can to complete the bridge in a timely fashion,” he said. “We will try, though we cannot guarantee, to get started and completed before Presidents Day.”