Action Sought To Improve Ocean Pines Bridge Safety

Action Sought To Improve Ocean Pines Bridge Safety

BERLIN – In 2009, repairs were recommended for the bridge near the intersection of Ocean Parkway and Clubhouse Drive.

In 2011, replacement was recommended.

Four years later, the 45-year-old bridge is still there.

Ocean Pines resident Slobodan Trendic compares the homeowners association’s neglect of the bridge, as well as the neglect of the other three in the community, to a game of Russian roulette.

“Imagine if something happened when a school bus was going across,” Trendic said. “I wouldn’t want to be sitting on the board explaining to homeowners why we allowed for a tragedy to happen.”

Trendic, who has lived in the Pines for the past two years, is a candidate for the board of directors in this summer’s election. He’s quick to say, however, that his effort to bring attention to the poor condition of the community’s bridges was not meant to be a political ploy.

“I think what I’m doing is what any homeowner would do if they looked into this,” he said.

Not everyone is as alarmed as Trendic. Dave Stevens, president of the board of directors, says that while the bridges need to be replaced it’s not an emergency.

“I didn’t get the sense out of the reports that there was imminent danger for anybody,” he said.

Ocean Pines is home to four bridges — the one on Ocean Parkway, another on Clubhouse Drive and then two at the north gate (one going into the community and one going out). They date back to the community’s construction nearly 50 years ago. In spite of regular inspection reports and repair recommendations from the state, improvements have not been made to the structures.

“The bridges have needed repairs for years,” said Bob Thompson, general manager of the Ocean Pines Association. “The challenge we were having was identifying the standards. Not knowing the standards you need to fix it to.”

Nevertheless, he did include $175,000 in last year’s budget to help fund either repair or replacement of the Ocean Parkway bridge. Because the structure’s BSR (Bridge Sufficiency Rating) is now below 50, Thompson said it could be replaced at a more affordable price than it could be repaired. Replacement, he explained, would be funded primarily by the state, whereas repairs would be funded solely by the association. Thompson said the state would fund 80 percent of the $800,000 bridge replacement, leaving just $160,000 for the association to cover.

Nevertheless, the bridge was not replaced in 2014. Thompson says the same $175,000 was included in the current year’s budget for potential bridge repairs. In the meantime, a second Ocean Pines bridge — the one on Clubhouse Drive — has deteriorated to the point that its BSR is also below 50.

“Where we are now is having the ability to go after both bridges,” Stevens said.

When asked why the replacement of the Ocean Parkway bridge wasn’t done last year, the board president said he didn’t know.

“Perhaps we could have,” Stevens said.

In light of the latest bridge report, Thompson has reignited the association’s efforts to improve the bridges.

“I’m getting the preliminary work done so we can get the funding worked out with the state,” he said.

He said a key part of the process would be coordinating the work effectively. Replacement of both bridges — one on the community’s main road and one providing access to a busy neighborhood — will cause traffic problems and could create issues for emergency responders.

“The replacement of each is going to create challenges with access,” he said. “There will be a lot of planning.”

Trendic doesn’t understand why a key component of the community’s infrastructure has essentially been ignored. He says that in the four years since the 2011 report recommended a new Ocean Parkway bridge, nothing has been done.

“It’s hard to justify not addressing recommended repairs,” he said.

Other residents have expressed concern as well. At a recent board meeting, resident Reginald Przybyski said a chunk of concrete fell off the Ocean Parkway bridge and onto his boat last summer.

“A big hunk of concrete fell on it,” he said. “It was 18 inches long and six or eight inches around.”

According to Przybyski, if you take a boat under the bridge you can see metal showing and loose concrete. That, Trendic says, is what prompted him to start looking into the issue. He and a family friend were traveling the canal by boat when the friend — an engineer — instructed him to stop under the Ocean Parkway bridge.

“He looked up and told me to stop,” Trendic said. “He was absolutely flabbergasted.”

Trendic’s subsequent research into the state’s bridge reports has only caused his concern to grow. The Nov. 8, 2011 report on the Ocean Parkway bridge, provided to the Ocean Pines Association by Worcester County, states, “We recommend the bridge be replaced.”

It goes on to say that if the bridge is not replaced, immediate maintenance — including the installation of new railings, the replacement of rotting timbers and the installation of State Highway Administration-approved barriers — be performed. The 2013 report said much the same.

“Ocean Pines is great at doing studies,” board member Marty Clarke said. “The problem is we don’t own a shovel.”

He’s not sure that the bridges need to be replaced but he doesn’t understand why the recommended repairs haven’t been made.

“Nothing lasts forever if you don’t maintain it,” he said.

While Thompson said this week he was working get things moving so the bridges could soon be replaced, Trendic said he’d like to see a task force formed to ensure the work is done.

“Don’t put another recommendation on the shelf and let it collect dust,” he said. “God forbid we have a tragedy. It won’t look good in terms of liability if we haven’t done the basic recommended repairs.”