Dundalk bridge closing

Wise Avenue span repairs to last nine months

July 27, 2006|By NICK SHIELDS | NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTER

A bridge on a major thoroughfare in the Dundalk area will be closed for the next nine months, raising concerns for merchants and bringing changes for commuters and public safety workers.

The drawbridge on Wise Avenue over Bear Creek in Dundalk will be closed starting Aug. 5 to allow contractors to make extensive structural and mechanical repairs, county officials said.

"The electrical system doesn't work," said John A. Olszewski Sr., the county councilman who represents the area. "The drawbridge doesn't even work and can't go up and down. It's in disarray and in need of major repairs."

The renovation of the 60-year-old bridge is expected to cost about $2 million, officials said.

It is estimated that more than 11,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge, said David Fidler, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works. By 2016, he said, about 21,000 vehicles are expected to cross the bridge each day.

The closure will force drivers on Merritt Boulevard, north of Wise Avenue, to be detoured to German Hill Road, to North Point Road and then to North Point Boulevard to get to areas east of the closed bridge, county officials said. Trucks will be detoured from Merritt Boulevard to North Point Road to North Point Boulevard, officials said.

Several meetings were held in recent months to address concerns about the effects of the bridge closing.

On the day of the bridge's closure, the North Point police precinct will add a patrol car to be sure that the closed bridge does not hinder response times and officers' backing one another up for safety, said Capt. Don R. Roby, the precinct commander.

"My concern was that if there was a serious call ... officers would have backup and the resources to handle an emergency," he said.

Until the bridge is fixed, the Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company will leave most service calls in the Edgemere area to one of three other fire stations in that area, said the volunteer company's fire chief, John Schaeffer Jr.

"It's not a large impact on the fire protection area," he said.

James O'Toole, president of the North Point Village Civic Association, lives less than two miles from the bridge and commutes across it almost daily. He said that the bridge's closing will be an inconvenience for commuters and area businesses, but that the repairs are needed.

"Our roadways and bridges are in dire need of repair," he said. "I certainly wouldn't want to go across that bridge and have it fall into the water."

Carl Hobson, president of the Millers Island/Edgemere Business Association, said businesses would also be affected by the bridge's closure.

"It's probably going to be a hard impact and a hard time for a lot of the people," he said. "It's a very busy thoroughfare."

But, he added, "This is something that has to be done."

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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