OCEAN CITY — Taking advantage of a tight window between Springfest and Memorial Day weekends, State Highway Administration (SHA) officials said this week they will begin an inspection and load testing of the Route 90 bridge next month that could cause traffic delays for motorists traveling in and out of Ocean City.
In advance of an anticipated routine rehabilitation project next fall, SHA engineers will conduct an inspection of the Route 90 bridge over the Assawoman Bay and the entrance to Ocean City starting May 6 and concluding Friday, May 10, weather permitting. SHA officials had originally scheduled the project for next week, but reworked the plan after concerns were raised about the potential impact on traffic heading to the resort in advance of Springfest weekend, which is set to begin Friday, May 2. As a result, the new schedule includes the week beginning Monday, May 6 and should be wrapped up by the following Friday.
“We were made aware of the potential conflict in the week leading up to Springfest, and we moved the project back a week to minimize any delays and inconveniences,” said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar this week. “We’re hopefully going to get in and out of there and get our work done quickly before the season really gets started.”
The project includes a routine inspection of the superstructure of the bridge that supports the roadway along with load testing to determine weight allowances. The purpose of the project is to determine the scope of a planned rehabilitation of the bridge sometime later in the fall.
“This work is being done in advance of what we’ll have to do on that bridge in the fall,” said Gischlar. “These bridges need maintenance and we need to be proactive. The main focus of this project is the weight testing on the superstructure.”
The work beginning May 6 will include intermittent closures of the eastbound lane of the bridge with a flagging operation alternating east- and westbound traffic. On Monday, May 6, the work is expected to begin around 11 a.m. and conclude around 7 p.m. From Tuesday, May 7 through Thursday, May 9, temporary closures and the flagging operation will be conducted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
On the planned last day, Friday, May 10, the work will begin at 7 a.m. and last until 3 p.m., although there could be complete closures of the bridge for as long as 15 minutes at a time on the last day, May 10. Gischlar said there will be signs and electronic message boards advising of the work and the hours, but recommended motorists avoid Route 90 altogether during the active hours of the project is possible. “We’re going to try to make this as convenient as possible, but this is just something we have to get done before the season,” he said. “The flaggers will keep traffic flowing the best they can, but that is such a long bridge that it will likely back up as far as Isle of Wight at times and the delays could be uncomfortable. We’re recommending motorists use Route 50 into Ocean City, even if they’re heading up to the north end because this time of year, it still might be quicker.”
Gischlar said the scope of the project in the fall will not be known until the load testing and inspections next month are completed, but said SHA did not anticipate any major headaches. In 2009, after weaknesses were discovered in the span, a major rehabilitation and repair project was undertaken that required an enormous crane to be brought through the Inlet and through the Route 50 drawbridge to Route 90.
“We’re going to have to do something but it won’t be anything like what we had to do a few years ago,” he said. “We’re not going to be bringing that huge crane back or anything like that.”