OCEAN CITY – The State Highway Administration (SHA) remains hopeful that the Route 50 Bridge will be open in time for Presidents Day Weekend, assuring officials the closure will not go beyond the scheduled 35 days.
With the Route 50 Bridge closure approaching, SHA came before the Mayor and Council this week to update them on the progress of the bridgework and to discuss the possibility of completion before the busy President’s Day Weekend.
SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer reported that despite every effort, SHA was unable to meet the Mayor and Council’s request to move the closure dates up from Jan. 17. The Mayor and Council initially made the request with hopes that the bridge could be re-opened in time for President’s Day Weekend, one of the busiest times of the offseason.
“We made every effort to make that happen, unfortunately the controlling factor was the manufacturing of the grid span itself,” said Drewer.
The bridgework includes the replacement of the grid deck of the draw span, but according to Drewer, the new grid deck would not be available until the original start date, Jan. 17.
Work on the bridge has already begun, in an effort to limit the amount of time that the bridge will be closed. Lane closures started in December, as SHA workers began work on the gears of the grid deck.
On Jan. 17, the bridge will be completely closed to vehicle traffic. Marine traffic will be closed starting Jan. 7. Drewer explained the marine traffic closure was moved up in an effort to get a head start on the gear mechanic work.
As for vehicle traffic, the Mayor and Council was assured that the closure would last no longer than 35 days, with every hope that the bridge will reopen sooner.
“I’ve been assured by the contractor that unless we get some unforeseen weather conditions, he anticipates that we will be finished and reopened by Presidents Day Weekend,” said Drewer, reporting that although he is making no guarantees, he is hopeful that the bridge will be completed ahead of schedule. “Believe me, we will stay on top of it and we will be in and out as quickly as possible.”
Although the grid replacement and gear work is scheduled for completion by mid-February, bridgework will not end there. Drewer reported that the second phase of the work, which requires improvements to the deck and a latex overlay, will not begin until March and will be split into two phases. Because the overlay process is temperature sensitive, work on the overlay cannot occur at the same time as the grid replacement. As a result, in late April and early May, SHA will be closing one lane of traffic at a time for deck work. All lanes will be completely reopened by Memorial Day and the remaining work will be completed in March of 2009.
“We thought it’d be best to do one half this year and the other half next year and be done with it,” Drewer said, adding that the spring was the only time when temperatures and traffic flow would be conducive to the deck work.
As for upcoming traffic changes, Drewer informed the Mayor and Council that plenty of signage would be on display to inform vehicles of the bridge closure and re-routing. Public information campaigns in the metropolitan areas have already begun in an effort to inform travelers of the closure.
“I would like to thank the Mayor and Council and the citizens of Ocean City for bearing with us to get this work done, I realize this is an inconvenience,” Drewer said.