Bridge reopens after 2-day closure Drawbridge repair to take longer ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

July 30, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

The Old Severn River Bridge that carries Route 450 out of Annapolis reopened for car and light truck traffic yesterday, two days after a counterweight fell off and damaged the bridge supports.

But it will take about two weeks before repairs can reopen the 69-year-old drawbridge to all traffic, state highway officials said.

Cars and pick-up trucks weighing 7,000 pounds and under will be allowed across the bridge, which normally has a vehicle weight limit of 24,000 pounds, enough to handle school buses and heavier trucks.

Heavier vehicles will have to continue using the Severn River Bridge that carries U.S. 50 and 301 over the river.

Meanwhile, today at 9 a.m. and at 7 p.m., the Old Severn River Bridge will open one draw span to handle boat traffic.

Those two opening times will continue daily until the bridge repairs are completed. Then the bridge will resume the normal hourly bridge openings.

Chuck Brown, a State Highway Administration spokesman, said opening the one draw span, which is about 70 feet long, will allow most boat traffic to go through, with the exception of larger sailboats and tour boats.

The bridge was shut down shortly after noon on Tuesday when one of two 135-ton counterweights -- which allow the bridge to go up and down -- fell off the north draw span of the bridge, just after the bridge closed. The counterweight damaged one of the support beams and fell into the river.

"We put some more steel beams in there to support" the bridge, said Mr. Brown, adding that it will take about two weeks to shore up the bridge and make sure it's safe for all traffic.

The loss of the counterweight was "just normal wear and tear" for a bridge constructed in 1924, he said.

State officials are considering replacing the counterweight, Mr. Brown said, but may opt to just have one-leaf openings for the remaining year the bridge will be in operation. A new Severn River Bridge will open next summer.

Officials may decide to use a crane to open the north-side draw span if a larger boat needs to go through, said Mr. Brown.

Bridge tender Tremayne Walker said no sailboat with a mast higher than 50 feet. could fit through the one draw span, since it is slightly tilted.

It may be too costly and time-consuming to try to retrieve the concrete counterweight from the bottom of the Severn River. The state is looking into the possibility of a box-like counterweight of steel, saying it would take too long to cast a new concrete one, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown said the 1,862-foot bridge is inspected every six months, with a visual inspection every month. It was last inspected on Feb. 5 and was just about ready for another six-month inspection, he said.

A new Severn River bridge is being constructed that will be open to vehicular traffic in June 1994, with completion scheduled for January 1995.

The Old Severn River Bridge will be torn down, with the exception of four spans, measuring about 280 feet, that will remain on the north side and be used for a fishing pier.

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