Ches. City bridge lane clo­sure, basin dredg­ing de­layed

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— Those await­ing ei­ther the planned clo­sure of a lane on the Ch­e­sa­peake City Bridge or the dredg­ing of the water­front town’s basin will be wait­ing a bit longer, of­fi­cials re­cently re­ported.

While town of­fi­cials be­lieved the five-month-long lane clo­sure on the bridge was to hap­pen any day now, U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers spokesman Tim Boyle said Fri­day that his agency has run into some de­lays with start­ing the project. The Corps is still work­ing through some traf­fic con­trol is­sues with the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, specif­i­cally in re­gards to the move­ment of first re­spon­ders, school buses and farm equip­ment over the length of the project, he said.

CH­E­SA­PEAKE

CITY

“We don’t ex­pect the de­lays to go on much longer,” he said. “We’re wait­ing for all of the proper ap­provals, which means work should be­gin in no more than two, maybe three weeks.”

Cor­con Inc., an Ohio-based con­struc­tion firm that spe­cial­izes in bridge paint­ing and has com­pleted ma­jor projects like the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadel­phia and the Brook­lyn Bridge in New York City, has been se­lected for the $6.8 mil­lion project.

Crews will work at least five days a week — pos­si­bly six to ex­pe­dite work — on the project that is ex­pected to end shortly af­ter La­bor Day. With crews work­ing per­ilously close to traf­fic on the two-lane bridge, it will re­quire a clo­sure of one lane for much of the du­ra­tion of project, cre­at­ing traf­fic de­lays for the 13,500 ve­hi­cles that cross the span daily.

Mean­while, town man­ager San­dra Ed­wards re­cently told the town coun­cil not to ex­pect dredg­ing to be­gin in the in­creas­ingly shal­low town basin un­til this fall.

“It’s go­ing to be a try­ing time for Ch­e­sa­peake City this sum­mer,” she said. “It’s a bit of a triple whammy with the bridge work, the is­sues in the basin and the fact that we cur­rently don’t have a ferry ser­vice, but we’ll per­se­vere.”

Af­ter it was last dredged in 2010, the roughly 1,500-footwide basin had a max­i­mum depth of 10 to 12 feet, but now parts of the basin are as shal­low as 3 feet at low tide. Large boats with larger drafts can­not fit in the basin, and with an av­er­age boat size of 35 feet hold­ing a 3- to 3.5-foot draft, even smaller boats face the risk of run­ning aground. Ch­e­sa­peake Inn Restau­rant & Ma­rina’s dock­mas­ter told the Whig in De­cem­ber that he was in­creas­ingly turn­ing away large boats from the basin for fear that they would be­come stuck.

Ed­wards and Coun­cil­man Bill Min­ers met with of­fi­cials from the Corps and the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources in April, where they were in­formed that Gov. Larry Ho­gan in­tends to grant $100,000 to the town to pay for its dredg­ing ex­penses.

“We’re co­or­di­nat­ing with the Corps, but the best case sce­nario tim­ing-wise is for it to hap­pen in the fall,” Ed­wards said. “The Corps will have to be the co­or­di­na­tor and per­mit­ter for the project, be­cause they can get through the process much eas­ier, but ide­ally we’re look­ing at a sev­eral-month process just to get ap­provals.”

While the Corps re­cently re­ceived $21.6 mil­lion for C&D Canal main­te­nance dredg­ing, Ed­wards said that if the Corps has trou­ble ap- pro­pri­at­ing that fund­ing for its por­tion of the es­ti­mated $600,000 basin project, the town could lobby the state for more fund­ing to dredge a lit­tle bit larger of an area.

“At least at the staff level, they seem very sup­port­ive of help­ing us with this,” she said. “I think ev­ery­one wants to work to­gether to make this hap­pen.”

Ed­wards added that while the basin is shal­lower, boaters are still us­ing the tran- sient town dock — although they are forced to anx­iously watch tides in or­der to safely leave port. She also shared a re­cent state topo­graph­i­cal sur­vey with Ch­e­sa­peake Inn man­age­ment so they could bet­ter guided vis­it­ing boaters through the basin.

“If large boats want to come in and an­chor in the deeper parts of the basin, they can run a wa­ter taxi out to the boat to pick up guests,” she noted.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Ch­e­sa­peake City res­i­dents will be forced to deal with de­lays on the start of needed bridge re­paint­ing and basin dredg­ing projects, of­fi­cials re­ported.

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