Route 50 Bridge Stuck Up For Hours

OCEAN CITY – The traffic headache that was supposed to last six hours during Monday’s Route 50 Bridge malfunction consequently only lasted three.

According to Wayne Weichman of the Snow Hill division of the Maryland State Highway Administration, one of the four tail-locks, which bond the two moving parts of the drawbridge together, broke loose and caused the bridge to be stuck at two very different angles and disabling their ability to fit together.

What ensued was three hours of backed up and diverted traffic as motorists had to reroute and access Ocean City via the Route 90 bridge, while crews worked diligently to fix the problem.

Weichman said that the bridge was fixed, but not completely repaired.

“We removed the broken tail-lock and fixed it but a contractor is going to have to come in and repair it completely,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, that will not cause any additional traffic stoppages on the bridge.”

Weichman was unsure why the tail-lock broke loose and said that he is waiting for the report to be returned from the contractor.

According to police spokeswoman Jessica King, the bridge officially reopened at 12:26 p.m., just minutes shy of a three-hour period, as the bridge closed initially at 10:30 a.m.

Last January, a repaving project on the westbound lanes by State Highway Administration Crews closed the bridge, but the drawbridge was one of the main parts of that job, forcing the bridge to be in an upright position for repairs to the gears, beams, sidewalk and eventually the decking of the bridge itself.

The gears on the southwest side of the bridge had deteriorated and the teeth in the gears were not fully engaging. After the gears were replaced, the beams, commonly known as purlins, also had to be replaced after enduring similar deterioration.

As a result, the decking on the bridge had to be removed to access those parts of the bridge and was replaced, despite the preceding decking being in what was considered fair condition by the SHA.

“From what I understand, what malfunctioned on the bridge on Monday had nothing to do with the project that we did in January, said Weichman, “but I’ll have to wait to see the report to know all the details.”

Last January’s project cost an estimated $1 million and closed the bridge for 35 days, and as dates to repave the eastbound side in the early part of 2009 creep closer, Monday’s three-hour traffic woe might signify a sampling of the ongoing traffic headaches motorists will be enduring for yet another winter.