Elk­ton con­sid­ers new at­tempt at Delaware Ave. pedes­trian bridge

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— The mayor and com­mis­sion­ers and their con­tracted en­gi­neer­ing firm, KCI, are con­sid­er­ing au­tho­riz­ing a re­quest to the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency to re­ceive per­mis­sion to build a pedes­trian bridge on Delaware Av­enue, po­ten­tially con­clud­ing a long sought-af­ter project.

Town of­fi­cials have tried for years to over­come state and fed­eral per­mit­ting hur­dles to meet an ur­gent need to con­struct a safer cross­ing for pedes­tri­ans, who cur­rently have to walk in a ve­hic­u­lar travel lane to cross over the Big Elk Creek.

Dur­ing the Wed­nes­day work­shop, Brian Mor­gan, KCI re­gional prac­tice leader, spoke with the of­fi­cials about re­ceiv­ing per­mis­sion

ELK­TON

to sub­mit a con­di­tional let­ter of map re­vi­sion ap­pli­ca­tion to get the project mov­ing again. Lewis Ge­orge, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said the cost to process the re­quest is $6,500.

The re­quest to sub­mit the ap­pli­ca­tion let­ter will be pre­sented for con­sid­er­a­tion at the mayor and com­mis­sion­ers’ Aug. 17 night meet­ing.

Mayor Rob Alt said the plan is to place a pedes­trian bridge par­al­lel to the south side of the bridge that sits above the creek. The is­sue at hand is that the pro­posed bridge falls within FEMA’s flood­plain zones. Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions stip­u­late struc­tures in those zones that re­sult in an in­creased amount of wa­ter sur­face elevation dur­ing a flood event must re­ceive FEMA ap­proval, Ge­orge ex­plained Thurs­day.

Mor­gan said that in or­der to re­ceive per­mis­sion, the town must show the con­struc­tion of the struc­ture will not change the wa­ter sur­face elevation. Cur­rently, the KCI model shows a 0.01-foot, or one hun­dred of a foot, in­crease in wa­ter sur­face elevation. He said the let­ter will show that the sur­vey equip­ment used is lim­ited in ac­cu­racy and is not mea­sur­able to such a small de­gree.

Mor­gan said he has an email from the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment stat­ing that 0.01 is be­yond the ac­cu­racy of any con­ven­tional sur­vey equip­ment.

“So a hun­dredth of a foot is es­sen­tially no change,” he said.

Mor­gan said he reached out to two FEMA lo­cal agency re­view­ers and were told two dif­fer­ent an­swers. He said he was told that 0.01 is not a change, but an­other per­son said they’d need to make the change to show no change at all, but if ap­pli­ca­tion let­ter showed that the sur­vey equip­ment is be­yond the equip­ment ca­pa­bil­ity and ac­cu­racy, it could be pre­sented as no change with plus or mi­nus 0.01 dif­fer­en­tial.

“We sub­mit the ap­pli­ca­tion and we’re for­tu­nate in that 0.01 ac­cu­racy gets us where we need to be that’s great news. And we can take that back to the state and we’re over that hur­dle ,” Mor­gan said. “If the 0.01 doesn’t come back fa­vor­ably, then we can put a lit­tle bit more time and ef­fort into it.”

He said KCI has a model, which was up­dated by MDE to re­flect sed­i­ment in the chan­nel, but has been up­dated based on tidal and flood gauges in­for­ma­tion, as well, in 2007.

Dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, Jeanne Min­ner, town di­rec­tor of the plan­ning, raised a thought for con­sid­er­a­tion.

“Can we bal­ance the site with re­mov­ing the equiv­a­lent of ma­te­rial in the flood­plain, whether it’s a por­tion at the build­ing or sed­i­ment, or some­thing that would bal­ance the site so it would stay at zero?” she asked.

Mor­gan said there could be po­ten­tial for it, but KCI would have to look at it and as­sess if it’s pos­si­ble — both from a work and fi­nan­cial per­spec­tive.

Com­mis­sion­ers agreed that the bridge is nec­es­sary to keep res­i­dents and oth­ers safe. Alt said he’s seen peo­ple walk across the bridge, and has not felt safe mak­ing the cross­ing him­self.

“If we have to move for- ward to take a chance for $6,500 to save a life, that is noth­ing,” he said. “Safety should be our No. 1 con­cern here and … I know there are no guar­an­tees in this and that’s the part that re­ally kind of sucks here, but I think it’s some­thing we’ve got to ex­haust all of our re­sources.”

Com­mis­sioner Mary Jo Jablon­ski said as the num­ber of peo­ple come into town in­creases, so does the vol­ume of peo­ple trav­el­ing over the bridge. She said she has seen the el­derly walk­ing from town to walk the track at Meadow Park.

Com­mis­sioner Earl Piner said he’d like to have a pic­ture of pedes­tri­ans walk­ing over the bridge the same time ve­hi­cles are cross­ing over it as well sent in with the ap­pli­ca­tion to show the re­view­ers.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

Pedes­tri­ans cur­rently have no safe way to cross the Big Elk Creek on Delaware Av­enue, where the bridge con­tains no shoul­der, forc­ing them to walk in a ve­hic­u­lar travel lane. Of­fi­cials are now con­sid­er­ing a new plan to rec­tify the is­sue.

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