Contractors for the State Highway Administration have begun rebuilding the York Road bridge over the Baltimore Beltway, one in a series of Towson-area traffic improvements.
The project, which state transportation officials expect to take two years, began Friday night as workers began setting up the work area, placing jersey barriers along the interchange ramps and putting up "work zone" signs.
The work area will cover about half a mile of York Road, from Fairmount Avenue to Cavan Drive.
The State Highway Administration has overseen several major improvement projects in recent years in Towson, including construction of the traffic circle and the rebuilding of the Dulaney Valley Road and Providence Road bridges over the Beltway.
"Now that the weather has cleared, we're ready to go and open another gateway to Towson," said SHA spokeswoman Frances Ward.
The bridge replacements are part of a larger plan to widen the Beltway. To do this, all of the bridges must be lengthened first, Ward said. Bridges carrying Reisterstown Road and Falls Road over the Beltway have also been rebuilt in the past few years.
She said officials planned to start construction on the York Road bridge earlier, but Tropical Storm Isabel pushed the work back to the weekend.
The new bridge will be 60 feet longer and one foot wider than the current bridge, with a median in the center.
In addition to the bridge, workers will make safety improvements to the interchange going to and from York Road and the Beltway.
Workers will remove the "loop" ramp going from the westbound Beltway to southbound York Road and place a traffic light just before the interchange on the Lutherville side of the Beltway.
"We're improving safety, so if you're getting off the Beltway, you don't have to merge with people getting on the Beltway," Ward said.
A straight ramp will replace the curved one so drivers getting onto the Beltway will be able to get up to speed much more quickly, said bridge project manager Danelle Bernard.
Workers will also make improvements to parts of York Road approaching the interchange, including landscaping, repaving the sidewalks along southbound York Road and improvements to the driveways of businesses.
Workers at businesses along York Road are resigned to the fact that the project will create traffic problems within their area.
"The end result is supposed to be nice, so as far as the end result goes, I'm for it," said Todd Huff, a sales manager for Brooks-Huff Tire and Auto Center, whose father, Jay, owns the business. "As far as the construction phase, I could do without it. York is bad enough on its own, once they start closing lanes and redirecting traffic, it's going to be a nightmare."
When the project is completed, the overpass will look similar to the Dulaney Valley Road bridge, with red bricks and concrete molded to look like stone.