Bay Bridge Concerns Outlined In MDTA Outreach Session

“Local residents took the opportunity to express their concerns to transportation officials during a meeting held to review the final stage of the westbound Bay Bridge redecking project. On September 9, work began on the second part of Phase Two of the Maryland Transportation Authority’s efforts to preserve the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge, involving the installation of 156 prefabricated deck sections on the through-truss portion of the westbound span. The first part of Phase Two, redecking of the suspension portion of the bridge, was completed this past April. The second phase is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2010. Beginning at 8 p.m., full overnight closures of the westbound span are scheduled during demolition and installation of the concrete sections, requiring two-way traffic on the eastbound span.

Residents who use the bridge took advantage of the MdTA’s outreach session held at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department to share their views, including the opinion that working on the bridge only in non-summer months gives preference to beach-goers over commuters who rely on the bridge on a year-round basis. Other comments were that greater enforcement of truck weight limits and regulation of hazardous cargo is needed and that construction errors in the past raise fears about the integrity of current work. One man also presented a case for the building of a people-mover on the bridge which would allow commuters to cross without a vehicle.

“”Commuters and local residents are the priority,”” said Kelly Melhem, deputy communications director for the MDTA. “”There are no easy answers”” for when and how to finish the redecking. Rather, the agency is forced to strike a balance between convenience for bridge users and construction requirements. Additional single-lane closures during daytime hours during redecking, which could occur between 9a.m. and 2p.m., are required staging time for the coming night’s construction, Melhem noted.

Lt. Neil Jester, commander of Bay Bridge detachment of the MDTA police, said truck weigh stations exist on both west and east-bound sides of the bridge’s toll booths. They are not in greater use, he said, because waiting trucks can back up into the travel lanes.

Weber said the MDTA has learned from difficulties it experienced in the Phase One of the redecking project, completed in 2005. Flaws that resulted after concrete was poured on-site convinced the agency to have concrete sections prefabricated under controlled conditions.

By the time of its completion, targeted for the fall of 2010, Phase Two redecking of the westbound span will cost $60-million, plus an additional $10-million for signal repair, painting etc., on the span. As for the eastbound span, permanent repair work will continue on Sunday nights and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Information on bridge traffic conditions can be obtained by calling 1-877-BAYSPAN or visiting http://www.baybridge.com.

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