OCEAN CITY – Despite torrential rains mid-week and the snow and ice yesterday morning, the Route 50 Bridge, which has been closed to traffic since Jan. 17, is expected to re-open by around noon today as planned.
The initial estimate for the length of the project was 35 days, which would have put its completion around next Friday, Feb. 22. However, area elected officials and business leaders urged the State Highway Administration (SHA) to expedite the project so that it would be done in time for this weekend, which includes the President’s Day holiday and the annual Seaside Boat Show, traditionally one of the busiest weekends of the winter.
Last week, SHA officials said the project was on target for completion today, Feb. 15, with the caveat it could be pushed back if there was any inclement weather during the final days. Well it couldn’t have been much more inclement this week with roughly two inches of rain falling on the area through Tuesday and Wednesday followed by yesterday morning’s winter storm, which added another two inches of snow and ice.
Nonetheless, the project has been completed on time and the bridge is expected to re-open sometime today as planned, according to SHA Assistant District Engineer Gene Cofiell.
“Our plan is to be out there at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning [today] to take down all the signage and barricades,” he said. “I’m not sure exactly when it will happen, but we’ll have it open tomorrow.”
Cofiell said it was difficult to pin down exactly when the bridge would re-open, but suggested anyone hoping to utilize the span in the morning should continue to use the alternative route. Locals and visitors have been utilizing the Route 90 Bridge into Ocean City during the bridge closure.
“If anybody is a morning commuter, I would suggest continuing to take Route 90,” he said “But if they’re coming back in the afternoon, they should be fine.”
From the beginning, uncertainties about the weather in January and February clouded the construction schedule, but the weather cooperated for the most part during the life of the project until this week. The heavy downpours mid-week followed by yesterday’s morning snow and ice storm did not derail the project as it neared the finish line.
“We got a good bit ahead of schedule and the weather the last few days, with first the rain and then the snow, didn’t affect the overall completion date for the project,” said Cofiell.
SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen praised the work crews for getting the project completed on time despite the nasty weather at the end. He said crews from Covington Machine and Welding and SHA worked 12-hour days for 21 days straight to get the Bridge open by today.
“Hard work and long hours allowed workers to finish the job ahead of schedule," he said. "We are appreciative of the teamwork that went into opening the Ocean City bridge in advance of the President’s Day holiday weekend.”
The closure of the bridge was necessary to replace the existing bascule span grid decking, sidewalk grid decking and purlins (small beams that support the grid deck) with galvanized decking, which prevents corrosion of the bridge’s steel.
While the bridge is expected to re-open today, SHA officials warned the project was not entirely complete and advised motorists to expect additional lane closures. For example, for the next two weeks through the end of February, single-lane closures may occur weekdays between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to complete repairs under the sidewalk.