Drivers complain bridge is rough ride

January 11, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The newly rebuilt Route 32 bridge over Morgan Run has commuters complaining and the State Highway Administration (SHA) scrambling to determine what went wrong with the $2.8 million project.

The concrete-finished surface dips several times as drivers cross the 450-foot span.

From the SHA office in Frederick, project coordinator Eric Eckhardt said the completed repair does not offer "as smooth a ride as we like to get."

"Our bridge department is re-evaluating the project," Mr. Eckhardt said.

"We don't know what caused the problem and we don't know how long it will take us to fix it. . . . I hope we don't have to close it again," he said.

Although drivers may experience ups and downs, Mr. Eckhardt stressed, "The bridge is safe to cross. There is no danger in crossing."

The bridge provides bumps aplenty, said several Gamber residents who are daily commuters.

"The new one literally bumps you to death," said Paul Campbell. "The bridge has gone from bad to worse. It's the waviest, bumpiest ride I have ever had."

Evelyn Burns compares her commute to an amusement park ride.

"We have Wild World right here," said Ms. Burns, who travels the bridge en route to her job in Sykesville. "I just wonder when they are going to charge admission to the bridge."

Ms. Burns said people knew "the structure was bad and in need of repair" but the ride was "OK."

"Did they have to compromise our smooth ride to get stability?" she asked.

The span reopened last month after being closed for eight months while the repairs were completed.

Although most of the nearly 10,000 daily commuters are happy to eliminate circuitous detours from their rides, many like Brian Haight say, "It's stable but a really rocky ride."

Mr. Haight was among the first drivers to cross the span when it reopened Dec. 21. The bridge cuts about 15 minutes off his drive to Sykesville.

"I cross two or three times a day and it seems worse than it was before the repairs," Mr. Haight said.

The SHA contracted the repair work to Richard F. Kline Co. of Frederick. Crews closed the two-lane bridge to through traffic May 5. But sighs of relief at its reopening turned quickly to complaints.

"What a fiasco," Ms. Burns said. "I would not have paid the bill."

Mr. Campbell called the project "a complete waste of tax dollars."

Mr. Eckhardt said the contractor built "according to SHA design plans."

"A couple of things could have happened and we have to look into them," he said.

One theory is that the structural steel did not deflect properly, he said.

"Steel will move some once weight is loaded on it," he said.

Mr. Eckhardt said his office has received "only a handful of complaints."

Benton Watson, bureau chief of Roads Operations in Carroll County, said he also has heard a few complaints and has referred those to the SHA office. He said he would characterize the ride as "a little wavy."

Like Mr. Eckhardt, Mr. Watson said designers may not have allowed enough room for arches in the steel before pouring the concrete surface.

"Weight from the concrete would have flattened them out," he said. "If they didn't account for the arches, they may have gotten a sway."

The SHA does not anticipate closing the bridge while engineers conduct "profile readings to determine where the bridge dips and where the high and low points are," said Mr. Eckhardt. "They will compare those readings to design specs."

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