SHA says bridge can stay open for painting
Work would begin in September
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.
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.