Road crews plan to begin a project Monday night to strengthen the guardrails on the Bay Bridge, continuing to resolve problems discovered in the aftermath of last summer's fatal crash on the major route that summer travelers take to the Eastern Shore.
After a tractor-trailer barreled through a reinforced concrete wall last August and plunged into the Chesapeake Bay, investigators using ultrasound and ground-penetrating radar discovered that some bolts attaching the concrete barriers to the bridge had corroded and others were in danger of doing so. The Maryland Transportation Authority installed L-shaped brackets at the bottom of the barriers as an emergency repair in August and September 2008.
Now crews will replace the quick fix with sturdier, more permanent bolts that they can drill into the concrete. Existing guardrails will be moved behind parapets to improve their durability in a crash. Aging overhead lane signals will also be replaced.
The work will be done at night on the eastbound side of the bridge. That span is part of the original bridge that opened in 1952. During closures, both directions of traffic will share the westbound span.
Officials say they will do their best to minimize delays for drivers. If engineers decide traffic volume is too heavy, for example, they may postpone closures until it quiets down. Or they might close one of two lanes at 7 p.m. and the other at 10 p.m. Transit officials plan to reopen the eastbound span by morning rush hour.
No closures are planned over the July 4 holiday weekend.
MdTA spokeswoman Kelly Melhem declined to provide a projected completion date or project cost, saying that bad weather and heavy traffic might cause delays.
The fixes are part of a major, continuing renovation on the bridge.
"It's quite a balancing act to coordinate all the preservation work that needs to be accomplished at the bridge," Melhem said.
Drivers can check baybridge.com or call 877-BAYSPAN (229-7726) for updates on lane closures.