OCEAN CITY – The Route 50 Bridge may have reopened two weeks ago, but work is far from over and traffic delays will continue over the next two months as the State Highway Administration (SHA) gears up to close the west bound lanes of the bridge Tuesday.
Maryland Department of Transportation’s SHA announced this week it will begin a $2.4 million bridge deck overlay project, which will be closing two lanes of bridge traffic.
“Beginning Tuesday, March 4, SHA will close and begin overlaying the westbound bridge deck. During construction, one lane in each direction will be maintained using the eastbound lanes, which will be separated by flexible posts,” read the SHA statement this week.
SHA anticipates completion of the overlay project by Memorial Day, but weather will be a factor.
The deck overlay project could not be completed during the 35-day bridge closure that spanned across January and February because SHA reports air temperatures must be above 50 degrees for proper installation.
The milling and resurfacing of the bridge is similar to the Coastal Highway resurfacing that occurred in the fall, but unlike Coastal Highway, vehicles will not be able to drive along the milled lanes of the bridge in any circumstances.
“They’re grinding the concrete right down to the rebar. There won’t be a surface to drive on,” said Public Works Director Hal Adkins this week as he relayed the information from SHA to the Mayor and Council.
“Its different on the bridge because of the rebar,” added City Manager Dennis Dare, explaining that no traffic, including emergency vehicles, would be able to drive along the west bound lanes until the work is completed. “That’s why I suggested not doing it in the fall because of hurricane season.”
Councilwoman Mary Knight voiced concerns over having limited bridge access during busy weekends, such as the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day event in March and Springfest in May.
“It’s very labor and time intense,” Adkins said of the work, noting that this was the best time SHA could find.
The remaining overlay work will be suspended until March 2009 when eastbound lanes will be improved in an effort to avoid closing the bridge completely.
“Traffic will be pretty tight through there,” said Councilman Jim Hall, suggesting the town’s emergency services be prepared for the tight flow of traffic through that area during busy weekends.
“Motorists will be guided through the work zone by arrow panels, variable message signs and traffic barrels,” reads the SHA press release.
Although the bridge is not fully shutting down again, SHA is encouraging motorists to use Route 90 as an alternate route.
“Though traffic will not be detoured, motorists may still want to use MD 90 as an alternate route into and out of Ocean City. SHA will work diligently to re-open all westbound lanes prior to Memorial Day,” the SHA statement said.
Signs will be posted along Route 50 notifying motorists of the potential traffic delays near the bridge.
“SHA and the contractor appreciates motorists’ patience during the construction process and remind all drivers to plan for extra travel time, buckle up, obey posted speed limits, stay alert and use caution while driving through highway work zones,” the statement reads.
Citizens with questions regarding bridge improvements are encouraged to call SHA’s District 1 office at 410-677-4000 or toll free at 1-800-825-4742.