OCEAN CITY — The latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the Route 50 Bridge, which was stuck in the open position for about five hours last month, will take place tomorrow when State Highway Administration (SHA) contractors will close one lane of the eastbound side of the span all day to make repairs to the temporary fix implemented following the failure last month.
SHA’s independent contractor, Covington Machine and Welding of Annapolis, will be making repairs on the drawbridge portion of the Route 50 bridge on Wednesday. As a result, one lane of the eastbound side of the bridge will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting. The single-lane closure is necessary for crews to make repairs and perform maintenance on the drawbridge, which will ensure proper operation of the draw span during openings and closings.
The work scheduled for Wednesday is related to the temporary fix that occurred earlier this month after the bridge got stuck in the open position for five hours on Saturday, July 26. A plan is in place to make substantial repairs to the drawbridge portion of the span in the fall after the summer season, but the work planned for Wednesday will hopefully extend the life of the temporary fix until that time.
“This is related to the temporary fix that occurred earlier this month,” said SHA Public Information Officer Charlie Gischlar late Tuesday. “We will be performing more permanent repairs and further preventative maintenance to ensure the bridge operates as directed and we don’t have a repeat of the same situation that occurred in late July. To minimize disruption to beach traffic, we will perform some repairs and maintenance tomorrow [Wednesday] and will return in September or October to complete the repairs project.”
SHA officials are urging motorists to consider utilizing Route 90 to enter and exit the resort during the bridge repair project on Wednesday, according to Gischlar.
“There will be one eastbound lane open only,” he said. “It still may back up, so we are urging folks to think of using Md. 90.”
Shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, the Route 50 drawbridge got stuck in the up position while it was being closed following a routine opening. The malfunctioning bridge almost immediately caused heavy resort traffic on a busy Saturday afternoon in late July to back up along Route 50 and the dominoes toppled backward to Routes 589 and 90, and along Route 113 to Route 54 and Lower Delaware as motorists attempted to find alternative routes into Ocean City, essentially causing gridlock across much of northern Worcester County.
The bridge remained stuck in the open position for about five hours until SHA’s private-sector engineering firm Covington, which routinely maintains and inspects the bridge, could get on scene to analyze the problem. In an otherwise luckless situation, the chief engineer was on vacation in Ocean City and was fishing offshore before he was brought in to being assessing the problem with the bridge.
Around 8 p.m., with the traffic backups now spiraling in every direction in and around the resort area, the decision was made to hand-crank the broken span into the closed position to begin allowing vehicles to access the bridge in and out of the resort. At 10 p.m., the bridge was hand-cranked to the open position again to allow boats caught on the south side of the span to get back into their marinas and ports. Anecdotally, some fishing boats and larger vessels were forced to put in at marinas south of the bridge and in West Ocean City and were brought back on Sunday when the bridge was operational again.
The problem was caused by a cracked mount on the drawbridge’s drive shaft that would not allow the span to be lowered. There are four of the mounts on the drawbridge’s mechanical system that allows the span to be raised and lowered. That larger project will be completed sometime this fall.