Bridge will be set for holiday

State says all 5 lanes on Chesapeake span will be open by end of May

Ready for Memorial Day crush

Resurfacing project has caused backups since fall

April 20, 2005|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

All five lanes of the Bay Bridge are expected be open by Memorial Day weekend, state transportation officials said yesterday in an update on a resurfacing project that has drawn widespread criticism for inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said the state has brought in a second work crew to make sure the westbound span is ready for the traditional start of the summer travel season. He said crews have finished pouring concrete on about half of the 7,640 feet of road scheduled to be resurfaced in the $71 million project.

"We feel very good about being done by Memorial Day," Flanagan said, though he added that a specific finish date has not been set.

The secretary said that after the current phase of the resurfacing is complete, work crews will not return to the bridge regularly until late 2006. Even then, he said, round-the-clock lane closures won't be necessary. One lane of the bridge's westbound span has been closed almost nonstop this year, causing regular backups at rush hour.

The bridge has been a headache for state officials - and for motorists - since last fall, when the Maryland Transportation Authority announced that, because of cracks, it would have to tear up more than half of the recently poured concrete in a multiyear repaving job.

Fixing the improperly done work would add millions to the cost of what was to have been a $60 million project, officials said.

In February, Flanagan announced that he was slowing down the project after a state-approved panel of engineers sharply criticized work that had been done on the westbound span. The project is now expected to be complete in 2007.

The disruptions were worst last fall when Flanagan ordered prolonged closings of two of the three westbound lanes to complete emergency repairs to one of the lanes before cold weather set in.

The Maryland Transportation Authority completed that work in time for Thanksgiving but at the cost of traffic backups that in some cases delayed drivers for an hour or more.

The reconstruction of the westbound span's deck began in 2002.

The engineers' report, which said many corners had been cut in the project's early stages, added that if future repairs are necessary, the authority should replace the deck, rather than resurface, wherever possible.

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