A $71 million project to clean and paint portions of the 4.3-mile eastbound span of the Bay Bridge got under way yesterday as workers began blasting away lead paint from the structure.
It will be the first scraping down to bare metal on the original, two-lane span of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, built in 1952 at a cost of $45 million.
But Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) officials promised yesterday that the project will not significantly interrupt beach traffic or rush hours. The first phase of the project, to blast the lead paint off the bridge, will last three years, and the cleaning and painting will take two more years.
"We all rely heavily on the Bay Bridge," Thomas L. Osborne, executive secretary of MdTA, said at a news conference. "It's an essential link for people who live on the Eastern Shore to the western part of our state. It is also essential to our recreational activities.
"We realize painting the bridge will be an inconvenience and a disruption," Osborne said. "But the authority worked diligently to structure this contract so that it will have the least possible impact on traffic."
The westbound span, which opened in 1973, does not need repainting. Although the agency regularly spot-paints both spans, the last time the eastbound span was repainted was from 1983 to 1986.
Officials explained that much of the cost -- $39.2 million -- involved in this project is due to the expense of removing lead paint from the bridge and the commitment to avoid lane closures at peak travel times.
Much of the work will be done at night during the week, officials said.
Summer lane closures for the project will be restricted to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Work will go on during daytime hours in the off-season, but work will continue to be prohibited Fridays through Sundays.
In keeping with federal and state guidelines, the New York painting company hired to do the job has enclosed portions of the span with tarpaulins to contain lead dust.
A state-of-the-art, closed-containment system also has been installed to collect debris from the blasting process and to ensure that lead particles will not be released into the air or fall into the Chesapeake Bay.
After the old paint is off, the George Campbell Painting Corp. of Flushing, N.Y., will clean the bridge and apply a zinc-based paint. The Campbell company did the original painting of Baltimore's Key Bridge and repainted the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia.
"More than 10 million motorists cross this span of the Bay Bridge each year," said state Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead, chairman of the transportation authority.
"It is essential that we invest wisely in the long-term maintenance of the structure. The cost is significant," he said, "but a completely new paint system is necessary to ensure the integrity of the bridge in the 21st century."
Anyone with questions about the project or current traffic conditions may call the Bay Bridge Painting Project Hotline at 888-288-1560.
Pub Date: 7/09/98