OCEAN CITY — Motorists got a brief flashback to last summer over the weekend when the Route 50 drawbridge became stuck in the open position.
Around 9:30 a.m. last Saturday, the drawbridge on the Harry Kelley Memorial Bridge, or the Route 50 Bridge, was stuck in the open position, blocking traffic from entering or leaving the downtown Ocean City area. State Highway Administration (SHA) officials quickly got the word out and traffic was rerouted.
According to SHA Media Relations Manager David Buck, the bridge malfunctioned for about 18 minutes before personnel were able to lower the draw span. The ensuing investigation revealed the malfunction was related to a minor electrical issue and not the same problem with the drawbridge’s structure that caused it to be stuck in the open position for about five hours on a busy Saturday evening last July.
“Our contractor, Covington, came down to check it out later in the day and found nothing wrong,” he said. “We have not had issues since. It appears to have been some type of very minor wiring issue with nothing further found.”
Around 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, the drawbridge got stuck in the up position following a routine opening and closing. The malfunctioning bridge almost immediately caused heavy resort traffic on a bust Saturday afternoon in late July to back up along Route 50 and the dominoes toppled backward as motorists attempted to find alternative routes into the resort, essentially causing gridlock across much of northern Worcester County.
The bridge remained stuck in the open position for about five hours until the decision was made to hand-crank the bridge into the closed position to begin allowing vehicles to access the bridge in and out of the resort. SHA’s engineers determined the problem was caused by a cracked mount on the drawbridge’s drive shaft that would not allow the span to be lowered completely.
The bridge was fixed temporarily and worked throughout the rest of the summer and fall, but a long-term fix is needed and that will likely occur soon. Crews are currently taking measurements and fabricating the necessary pieces for the repair, which could begin within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, motorists accessing the bridge could encounter some disruption to normal traffic flow next week. SHA will be performing routine maintenance on the bridge next Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. During the project, test openings should not last longer than a normal bridge opening. The work will include testing gear oil and checking operating systems and is not part of the large repair project planned for the span.