SHA says bridge can stay open for paint­ing

Work would be­gin in Septem­ber

Record Observer - - Front Page - By PETER HECK pheck@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CHESTERTOWN — Af­ter months of anx­i­ety about the Ch­ester River bridge be­ing closed for paint­ing, it now looks as if the com­mu­nity has es­caped the most wor­ri­some sce­nar­ios.

At a meet­ing of the Joint Kent-Queen Anne’s Task Force on the bridge clo­sure Fri­day, July 15, Greg Robey, State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rec­tor of struc­tures, said the con­trac­tor on the project has found a way to min­i­mize the im­pact of the work.

The project to paint the bridge was ex­pected to re­quire a com­plete clo­sure of the span for four weeks, with long de­tours re­quired for traf­fic go­ing be­tween Kent and Queen Anne’s coun­ties. Orig­i­nally planned for this sum­mer, it was post­poned in re­sponse to com­plaints from the lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity. The task force has been work­ing with the SHA to find ways to min­i­mize the ef­fect on the com­mu­nity; it now ap­pears to have found the an­swer.

By us­ing a unique tem­po­rary paint con­tain­ment sys­tem on barges, the state paint­ing con­trac­tor, Al­pha Paint­ing and Con­struc­tion of Bal­ti­more, will be able to keep the MD 213 bridge fully open to traf­fic from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. dur­ing the two-month project early this fall. The plan will re­quire the bridge to be closed com­pletely to traf­fic for five nights be­tween 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. com­pared to the orig­i­nal

plan which closed the bridge 24/7 for up to four weeks. The draw­bridge will re­main in the closed po­si­tion for the du­ra­tion of the project.

“Thanks to out-of-the-box think­ing and a great part­ner­ship with the com­mu­nity, the task force, and the con­trac­tor, we have come up with a so­lu­tion that al­lows us to get this im­por­tant bridge main­te­nance project com­pleted and keep the bridge open and traf­fic flow­ing through the ma­jor­ity of the project,” said SHA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gre­gory C. John­son Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. “Part­ner­ship is key to main­tain­ing ac­cess on the bridge for the emer­gency re­spon­ders, res­i­dents, stu­dents and com­muters that count on the MD 213 to get to the hospi­tal, school, work and back home ev­ery day.”

If there are no un­ex­pected com­pli­ca­tions, the paint­ing would be­gin Wed­nes­day, Sept. 7 and last ap­prox­i­mately two months. That would al­low the work to be com­pleted be­fore cold weather be­comes an is­sue, Robey said.

One of the prob­lems with sched­ul­ing the paint­ing was the need for tem­per­a­tures to be con­sis­tently above 40 de­grees for the paint to cure prop­erly. With the new plan, Robey said, the con­trac­tor can work a cou­ple of weeks into Novem­ber if there are de­lays be­cause of a pro­longed pe­riod of rain or a hur­ri­cane.

Mary­land Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Pete Rahn has al­ready con­tacted “the peo­ple he needs to” in An­napo­lis, Robey said. He said Rahn gave the go-ahead for the new pro­ce­dure at 8 p.m. July 14.

Robey said the new pro­ce­dure would add about 15 to 20 per­cent to the price tag of $1.467 mil­lion for the paint­ing. The fig­ure is un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion, he said. He said the ex­pected life span of the paint job is 20 to 25 years.

Jack Bro­sius, the task force mem­ber rep­re­sent­ing the res­i­dents of Kingstown and Ch­ester Har­bor, said the ad­di­tional price would be more than off­set by the re­duced im­pact on the lo­cal econ­omy,

Greg Holsey, the SHA dis­trict en­gi­neer, said he agreed. The lesser im­pact on emer­gency ser­vices was also a con­sid­er­a­tion, he said.

Bro­sius and Holsey were both present at Fri­day’s meet­ing.

The cen­ter span of the bridge will be blocked to boat traf­fic while the paint­ing goes on, Robey said. The con­trac­tor will be an­chor­ing barges un­der the bridge to hold equip­ment and to cap­ture the old paint be­ing re­moved. Smaller boats will be able to go through the side arches, he said.

Robey said the SHA will need to get per­mis­sion from the U.S. Coast Guard to block the span. He said the Coast Guard needs about 30 days to get in touch with mari­nas and other stake­hold­ers to de­ter­mine the im­pact. “That gives us about two weeks,” he said.

Bro­sius said he knows of only two sail­boats up­river of the span that need the bridge opened to get through. Nei­ther, he said, is likely to go any­where. “The rest shouldn’t be an is­sue,” he said. “Boaters have al­ready adapted.”

Ber­nadette Bow­man, Kent County di­rec­tor of tourism, asked if the barges would need to use the town docks dur­ing the work. She said there are two ma­jor fes­ti­vals along the wa­ter­front dur­ing the fall, River­fest and Sul­tana’s Down­rig­ging Week­end, that could be af­fected.

Kay Mac­In­tosh, Chestertown di­rec­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, asked the SHA of­fi­cials to see if the five days of com­plete night­time clo­sures could be sched­uled so as not to af­fect traf­fic dur­ing the fes­ti­vals.

Robey said the SHA was talk­ing to the con­trac­tor about it. He said the SHA would do what it can to re­duce the ef­fect on tourist traf­fic to lo­cal events. He said he wasn’t sure whether the five days need to be con­sec­u­tive.

The Ch­ester River Bridge car­ries MD 213 (Maple Av­enue) over the Ch­ester River and is lo­cated just north of the Kent County/Queen Anne’s County Line. The project in­cludes blast clean­ing, prim­ing and paint­ing the draw span and re­lated com­po­nents, the ma­chine room and the bridge rail­ing. The bridge was last painted in 1987.

While a work sched­ule and co­or­di­na­tion with the Coast Guard is be­ing fi­nal­ized, the project is cur­rently planned to oc­cur Sept. 7 through Oct. 30. The Coast Guard needs to ap­prove keep­ing the draw­bridge in the down po­si­tion and stag­ing barges in the chan­nel.

Work­ing pri­mar­ily from barges, crews will main­tain both lanes of traf­fic across the draw­bridge from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. At night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., crews will use sin­gle-lane clo­sures and flag­ging op­er­a­tion ex­cept for the five nights when the en­tire bridge will need be closed to traf­fic. SHA con­tin­ues to work with the Joint Ken­tQueen Anne’s County Task Force to sched­ule nights that will be least dis­rup­tive to the com­mu­nity’s planned fes­ti­vals and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

Orig­i­nally con­structed in 1930, the MD 213 draw­bridge over Ch­ester River car­ries an av­er­age of 14,000 ve­hi­cles each day. SHA awarded a $1.5 mil­lion clean­ing/paint­ing con­tract to Al­pha ear­lier this year. The ad­di­tional cost for the new plan is cur­rently be­ing ne­go­ti­ated.

PHOTO BY DO­RIAN MITCHELL

The Joint Kent-Queen Anne’s Task Force study­ing the need to close the Ch­ester River bridge for paint­ing has been told that most of the work can be done at night and would re­quire only a sin­gle-lane clo­sure.

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