Paper Mill bridge redesign unveiled Environmental concerns led to 1st plan's rejection

October 15, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Call it bridge troubles over drinking water.

Baltimore will pay $450,000 more than expected for redesigning the Paper Mill Road Bridge over Loch Raven Reservoir after the first design was rejected because of environmental concerns.

The city showed the new 669-foot-long design at the city Board of Estimates meeting yesterday as questions surfaced over the doubling of the design price.

"It jumps out at you," Council President Lawrence A. Bell III said of the increase.

The city originally agreed to pay civil engineers Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson of Sparks $451,128 to design the bridge that stretches over the northern tip of the reservoir in Baltimore County. The city is responsible for the structure because it owns and maintains the reservoir, where the city collects drinking water.

The city has sporadically closed the 459-foot steel bridge -- built in 1922 -- for repairs because of deterioration. About 10,000 cars cross the gray bridge each day.

The new bridge, with its distinctive 99-foot orange arches, had to be redesigned after environmentalists objected to initial plans that would sink bridge supports into the water, disturbing the fragile ecology.

Baltimore would pay $6 million of $11.4 million for the project. The federal government would pay the rest. The old bridge would remain for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

In addition to concerns over spending, Bell's office pointed out that $250,000 of the money approved yesterday was for unrelated bridge design work that the company conducted to build an Inner Harbor pedestrian bridge in front of the revitalized Power Plant.

Bell's office also questioned whether the city is responsible for the extra costs because the original bridge designs were changed because of the environmental concerns. Under the new plan, the bridge and archways are supported by slabs perched on the banks.

City officials, including Public Works Director George G. Balog and City Solicitor Otho M. Thompson, said the city has no choice but to pay for the redesign in order to meet state and federal approvals get the bridge built. When first drafted about eight years ago, the original bridge work was satisfactory. Only after objections over the environment was the design changed, city officials said.

"It's more of a necessity than an aesthetic look," Balog said.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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