Bridge to Assateague Island reopened for beach repair work

January 09, 1992|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

ASSATEAGUE ISLAND -- Beach repairs resumed yesterday in the state and federal seashore parks here after state highway officials determined that the weekend northeaster had not damaged the Verrazano Bridge linking the mainland to the barrier island.

"Right now the bridge is perfectly safe for legal load traffic," said Donnie L. Drewer, the State Highway Administration district engineer for the Lower Eastern Shore. However, the bridge's use is being restricted to traffic related to beach repair work. The arched bridge can carry traffic weighing up to 80,000 pounds.

The bridge was temporarily closed to heavy construction equipment Tuesday after inspectors discovered that Saturday morning's storm had eroded sand around the bridge supports.

The seaside parks will remain closed to the public while state and federal officials tend to the task of restoring dunes and repairing roads and structures damaged by the weekend's 70 mph winds and the enormous Atlantic waves that swept across the island.

Kevin Farley, a state Department of Natural Resources ranger, said bulldozers and other heavy equipment are being used to repair the state's portion of the oceanside park.

He said the state park should be ready for public use by April 1, the normal opening date for its activities.

The federally owned Assateague Island National Seashore also is expected to reopen as soon as roads and hiking paths are restored.

Mr. Drewer said yesterday that an underwater inspection of the bridge showed that about 2 feet of sand around the concrete pilings had been washed away by the storm. The "scour," or eroded area, had already

begun filling in, he said, and the condition posed no threat to normal use of the bridge.

A team from Maryland Diving Services in Baltimore was called to inspect the bridge after both highway and park officials questioned whether transporting heavy equipment over it was safe.

Mr. Drewer said several other coastal bridges will be inspected this week, but he added that none of the bridges was considered unsafe.

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