OCEAN CITY — The potential threats associated with Hurricane Florence this week briefly halted a State Highway Administration (SHA) project to repair failing sections of concrete on the underside of the Route 50 Bridge, but the project is expected to resume next week.
Earlier this week, SHA crews began repairing and replacing sections of failing concrete on the underside of the Route 50 bridge. Technically, the term is “spalling,” which essentially means concrete that is breaking up, becoming flaked or pitted and typically caused by environmental issues and exposure to the elements.
SHA spokesman Robert Rager said this week crews began working on the concrete sections this week and the project will be a lengthy one.
“This will be a fairly long project to address spalling in all 72 fixed-span sections,” he said. “Structurally, the concrete sections are in good shape. We’ve chipped loose concrete away and now are going back to patch those areas. In some places, there is exposed rebar. We’ll clean and recoat that steel prior to placing the concrete patches.”
While some of the work is largely superficial, Rager said the long-term objective is to keep the spalling problem from getting worse.
“The larger goal, of course, is system preservation,” he said. “The reinforcing steel is in good shape and this patching will help keep it that way by protecting it from the elements.”
While the SHA project could take weeks to complete, there are not anticipated closures or traffic impacts on the top side of the Route 50 drawbridge.
“This work will be under the bridge and mostly over water from barges, so we don’t anticipate any significant traffic impacts,” he said. “We’re hoping to knock out the first few sections over land in the coming weeks, starting at the Inlet side and working westward.”
Rager said the uncertainties surrounding Hurricane Florence this week caused SHA crews to halt the work at least briefly this week.
“We did, in fact, pull out in advance of the hurricane just to be on the safe side,” he said. “Work should resume next week and we will close the road beneath the bridge for a short period.”
The current project is just the latest in a continuing pattern of repairs to the Route 50 bridge by SHA. Last spring, SHA made repairs to some of the aging portions of the drawbridge after a small crack was discovered in a single steel beam on the structure. As a result, SHA engineers inspected all of the steel beams and proactively made necessary repairs prior to the summer season, resulting in some overnight closures of the span in April.