Dover Bridge ahead of schedule
Projected opening planned for spring 2018
TANYARD — Arcing 50 feet above the Choptank River and its marshes filled with rose mallows and wildfowl, the new Dover Bridge is nearing completion.
The project is ahead of schedule, and traffic is expected to cross the fixed span on state Route 331 next spring.
McLean Contracting Company of Glen Burnie is building the new 2,020-footlong bridge south of the old bridge. The same company built the original Warren truss swing bridge in 1932.
The old 843-foot Dover Bridge isn’t going anywhere. Because of its historical significance, it will remain in a permanently open position and serve as a fishing pier.
The 1932 bridge is one of only three swing bridges in Maryland and the only bridge of its particular structure in the entire state, Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman Bob Rager said.
This type of bridge “was almost exclusively used in railroad applications, and is very, very rarely used for vehicles,” Rager said.
“In 2001, in conjunction with the Maryland Historical Trust, the SHA said it would do everything it could to preser ve it,” Rager said.
In contrast to the superstructure on the old bridge, no network of trusses will block the panoramic views across the marsh.
Instead, an “aesthetic tribeam railing” is being installed, offering drivers and passengers a largely unobstructed view of the river, wildlife and boat traffic below.
In November, Project Engineer Trudi Gaito of Smyrna, Del., will have led the project since it began three years ago.
“This has been a great project to be on, it really has,” Gaito said.”
Four inspectors work with Gaito out of the engineering office on the Talbot County side of the bridge. The groundbreaking was held Oct. 14, 2014.
The 272 large-format pages of plans for the bridge sit open on the work table, and she studies it daily.
Another 4-inch binder contains “the contract for the bridge and has extra, special provisions not covered at all in the plans. It’s a lot of reference documents,” Gaito said.
Ninety percent of the bridge deck has been poured, and 11.5 of the 13 spans are finished. A bridge span runs from pier to pier.
As the concrete is poured and finished, it is wetted down to cure it. Sometimes, when the wind is in the right direction, the water sprays down on passing vehicles, Gaito said.
The lanes will have 8-footwide shoulders. The current bridge has two 12-foot-wide lanes with no shoulder room.
Fill dirt to compress the subsoil was added on the Caroline County side in December 2016. Excess fill now is being removed to make way for the last abutment for the bridge.
The fill was the fourth layer of fill and has been in place for eight months “just for weight,” Rager said. “The quarantine period just expired.”
Because the fourth layer was so successful in compressing the soil, a planned fifth layer of fill will not be needed, Rager said.
“The fill dirt is surcharge put down in the marshy area,” Rager said. “If we hadn’t done that, it would have been like building a roadway on a marshmallow.”
Five concrete girders on the south end of the bridge will be lowered into place soon. They are in their “actual storage location because the contractor had to take delivery last year for them, but we were not ready to set them because the dirt had not settled,” Gaito said.
But because they are sitting at a higher elevation than the bridge deck, they have been the subject of wisecracks.
“I’ve had people say, ‘You guys at state highway must be idiots; you put those girders in wrong,’” Rager said.
“Yeah, I’ve seen some stuff on Facebook,” Gaito said, laughing. “It’s like, ‘Is this how we do the new math?’ It does look odd.”
“As soon as the abutment is completed, they’ll go ahead and put those girders in at the proper elevation,” Gaito said. “They’re in the right location; they just need to be lowered.”
After the bridge opens to traffic, “other things will still be going on. We’ll be adding landscaping, sediment traps, bioswales,” Gaito said.
Beneath the bridge are “architectural treatments,” tall sailboats set in relief on the concrete piers boats pass between. “The designer wanted to add interest for the boating public and wanted it to blend in with the beautiful scenery here,” Rager said.
To view the complete project on videos, log onto mdasphalt.org/2016/doverbridge-replacement-project/
Dover Bridge Project Engineer Trudi Gaito consults 272 pages of plans daily with four inspectors. She has led the project for almost three years.
Workmen at the top of the new Dover Bridge prepare balusters for the “aesthetic tri-beam railing” that allows motorists a panoramic, southerly view of the Choptank River.