County moves forward with Mechanics Valley bridge project
NORTH EAST — The county is moving forward with a plan to replace the bridge on Mechanics Valley Road over CSX Railroad, releasing additional details this week on what impact the project would have on the nearby Johnies Ballfield.
While the project is still in the design phase, the Cecil County Department of Public Works released a public notice Thursday saying that any impacts to the ballfield are expected to be temporary and would only last through the duration of the construction. During construction, which is not set to start until late 2019 or early 2020 and is expected to last a year, about 900 square feet of the ballfield would be affected and about 100 feet of outfield fencing would need to be removed. After construction though, the fence will be replaced and the ballfield, which is managed by the Cecil County Department of Parks and Recreation, will be restored to its original condition, according to the notice.
There will be some permanent impacts to the field, but they will all occur outside of the fenced ball field and won’t affect the use of the park, according to the notice.
Given this, DPW is asking the Federal Highway Administration to make a finding of “de minimis,” or minor impact, when it comes to effects on the ballfield from the bridge project. John Fabian, project engineer, said this is a necessary step because the project is part of the federal bridge replacement program, which also means that the federal government will pick up 80 percent of the estimated $7.5 million cost.
“It’s a big project. It’s going to take some time,” he said. “We have to follow the federal requirements because of what’s involved.”
While the current bridge is in decent condition, it has become obsolete and isn’t equipped to handle the approximately 5,000 vehicles that cross the span daily. The new bridge will be much wider than the current one — with two 12-foot traffic lanes and two 7-foot shoulders — and the project will also involve realigning Mechanics Valley and Bouchelle roads.
DPW held a meeting to discuss the bridge with the public back in December 2016 and more than a year later, the project is still in the design phase, with Fabian estimating that almost 30 percent of the design is complete. After the design is complete, there will still be a lot of work to do obtaining right of ways and moving utilities, he said.
Plus the project still hasn’t been allocated funds at the federal level, he added, noting the project has a long way to go.
As part of requesting the finding of minimal impact, DPW must confer with the Parks and Rec department and is also required to give an opportunity for public comment. Anyone wishing to comment on the project finding about minimal impact is asked to email Fabian at jfabian@ccgov. org or send mail to Cecil County Department of Public Works, Attn: Mr. John Fabian, P.E., 200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 2400, Elkton, MD, 21921.
The county is in the early stages of a project to replace the Mechanics Valley Road bridge over the CSX Railroad.