ASSATEAGUE ISLAND -- With the bridge linking Assateague Island to the mainland now deemed safe, repair crews are beginning to restore the beach at the popular state and federal seashore parks that were damaged by last weekend's northeaster.
"Right now, the bridge is perfectly safe for legal load traffic," Donnie L. Drewer, the State Highway Administration district engineer for the Lower Eastern Shore, said yesterday. The bridge can sustain trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds.
The arched Verrazano Bridge was closed to heavy construction equipment Tuesday after inspectors discovered that Saturday morning's storm had eroded sand from around the bridge supports.
Drewer said a further underwater inspection showed that about two 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 posed no threat to normal use of the bridge.
Except for traffic related to beach repair work, the bridge and parks remain closed to the public. State and federal park officials began restoring dunes and repairing roads and structures that were damaged over the weekend, when winds of 70 mph and enormous waves swept across the island.
Kevin Farley, a state Department of Natural Resources ranger, said the state's portion of the oceanside park is being repaired by bulldozers and other heavy equipment. He said the park should be ready for public use by April 1, the normal opening date.
The federally owned Assateague Island National Seashore is expected to be reopened once roads and hiking paths are restored.
Drewer said several other coastal bridges will be inspected by divers this week. He said is no concern that any are unsafe, however.