More repairs needed on Bear Creek bridge

Unexpected work to delay reopening until November

August 25, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Because of unexpected work on a repair project that was to have been done this month, the Peninsula Expressway drawbridge over Bear Creek in Dundalk will remain closed until late November, state officials say.

The bridge replacement and rehabilitation project began in November, but state highway officials said supporting towers of the drawbridge -- which hold the gears, motors and other mechanical components -- were in surprisingly poor condition.

If left unrepaired, the towers could have caused mechanical failure of the draw span, causing it to lock in place, said David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration.

"We went in there and we saw what happened with the towers, and we could not leave them the way they were," he said.

The contractor, McLean Contracting Co. of Glen Burnie, will perform the additional construction work for $1.1 million, in addition to the original price of $6.92 million. The work includes new bridge approaches and a major overhaul of the 40-year-old drawbridge.

Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, said the project delay is necessary to avoid the risk of something worse happening.

"When you do a project that big, you want to do it right, even though it may be an inconvenience," he said. "We've been inconvenienced for a long time now, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel as the project is winding down."

Detours using Route 151 (North Point Boulevard) and Route 158 (Bethlehem Boulevard) will remain in effect until the bridge is opened.

The detours affect Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant, where several hundred of the company's 4,500 employees normally use the bridge to go to and from work, said Ted Baldwin, spokesman for Bethlehem Steel.

"What would normally take 10 minutes to get to work now takes 30 minutes," he said.

Carolyn Mroz, past president of the North Point Peninsula Community Coordinating Council, said her community has been frustrated by the bridge construction because the detours add 10 to 15 minutes to the drive from Edgemere to Dundalk.

"I think anytime you change people's habits, it's a frustration, but it was a necessary frustration," Mroz said. "That bridge was in very bad shape."

To minimize the inconvenience for some drivers, the SHA is offering discount tickets to residents of the lower Dundalk peninsula whose detour to the Sparrows Point/Edgemere area requires that they drive through the toll plaza of Key Bridge. The tickets have been available since the beginning of the project and allow residents credit for the toll they must pay to use the Key Bridge access road.

Carl Hobson, who owns Hob's Citgo gas station in Edgemere, said he hears complaints from his customers about the construction. "Everything is just going to be better when it's all finished up," he said.

Buck acknowledges the community's frustration but said the delay is necessary to keep the bridge working properly.

"We definitely regret and apologize for the inconvenience. It was something we didn't expect," Buck said. "But we appreciate their patience for a couple months."

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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