Elkton considers new attempt at Delaware Ave. pedestrian bridge
— 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
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.
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.