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