Route 50 Bridge Project To Wrap Soon, SHA Reports

Route 50 Bridge Project To Wrap Soon, SHA Reports
Route 50

OCEAN CITY — The tedious chipping away at sections of failing concrete under the Route 50 Bridge that has caused single-lane closures for the last month continues this week, but the project is nearing the finish line.

Crews contracted by the State Highway Administration (SHA) last month to chip away at the underside of the Harry Kelley Memorial Bridge continued work on the west side of the span this week, systematically removing chunks, or in many cases, very small sections, of failing concrete that run the risk of falling onto vessels below or into the bay. The project began in mid-October with crews working on the underside of the eastbound sections of the bridge and now they are working their way back under the westbound lanes from east to west.

On Monday, crews were working on the westbound side of the bridge with at least three “snoopers,” or cherry pickers of sorts, extended over the side of the bridge to provide workers with access to the underneath portion of the span. The work continued to result in single-lane closures on the westbound lanes of the bridge this week, although SHA officials confirmed the project would likely be completed by the end of the week.

Originally, SHA believed the project would take just a few days, but the work proved to be tedious. Initial inspections revealed no major concrete failures, but crews are literally chipping away at the underside of the bridge inch by inch and bucket by bucket.

At the onset of the project last month, SHA officials said the age of the bridge was a contributing factor in the patches of failing concrete and emphasized it wasn’t a structural issue, but more of a surface issue. The bridge was built in 1942 and some of its design elements are contributing factors in the patches of failing concrete. SHA officials explained the bridge was built as a single concrete slab and modern bridges would not be constructed that way.

Most bridges these days are constructed with a catch device system, typically something as simple as a plywood frame underneath to catch falling concrete and other debris. However, the Route 50 bridge design did not allow for a catch device system. Instead, workers continue to systematically chip away at small sections of failing concrete with small hammers.

Once the work is completed, the underneath side of the bridge will be sprayed with a sealant to prevent further erosion. However, SHA officials have said that wouldn’t likely happen until after the winter and the freeze-thaw cycles that accompany it.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.