Historic bridge, replaced with new span, closes

August 29, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

The old Severn River Bridge, the 70-year-old drawbridge preservationists went to court to save, closes for good today, when workers begin removing one of its draw spans.

Demolition of the rest of the bridge -- except for a portion to be used as a fishing pier -- will begin in the next few weeks.

The drawbridge now stands in the shadows of its replacement, an 80-foot-high, curved span of steel and concrete that opened to eastbound traffic about two weeks ago and opens to westbound traffic today.

Cianbro Corp. of Baltimore was awarded the $34 million contract to build the 2,835-foot bridge. The work should be completed by February.

State highway officials expect to close portions of the new bridge until about 4 p.m. today for paving and urge motorists to use the U.S. 50/301 bridge over the Severn River until the work is complete.

A 600-foot section of the northwest end of the new bridge will remain unfinished until the old bridge comes down, state highway officials say.

For the four months it will take to finish the new bridge, traffic in both directions will travel on the south side.

The new span has been the target of protests, petitions and legal battles for several years. Its designer, Greiner Inc., a Towson engineering firm, was chosen from 21 entries by a jury of engineers, architects, historians and community representatives.

In July 1992, a group of Annapolis residents fighting to save the drawbridge lost a federal appeal that would have stopped construction of the replacement.

The group argued that the new bridge would be an eyesore that would overwhelm Annapolis' historic skyline, damage river habitat and dump high-speed traffic onto a two-lane street.

Maryland transportation officials persuaded a lower court that they had carefully considered all aspects of the proposed span. Lawyers for the State Highway Administration also argued that the drawbridge was one of the most decrepit in the state and needed to be replaced.

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