WASHINGTON – More than a third of Maryland bridges requiring replacement are located along the state’s Eastern Shore.
A computer analysis of Maryland State Highway Administration data shows 21 bridges, in seven of the shore’s nine counties, have earned structural evaluation ratings mandating replacement.
Statewide, 61 need to be replaced.
“Most of the bridges on the Eastern Shore are the same,” said James Wright, Kent County engineer. “They’re mostly built in the 1950s, mostly timber structures. They weren’t designed for today’s traffic and many aren’t up to the loads of the new trucks.”
Queen Anne’s County led the Eastern Shore list, requiring seven timber bridge replacements, showed the records, current through January.
Alan Quimby, Queen Anne’s County head engineer, said the county is in the process of selecting a consulting firm and hopes to have all replacements completed within five years.
The county’s three oldest bridges needing replacement were built in the 1940s: a bridge on Round Top Road crossing Foreman Branch; Island Creek Road crossing Island Creek; and Deavers Branch Road crossing German Branch.
The others in Queen Anne’s County up for replacement are: Groff Road crossing Unicorn Branch; Will Smith Road crossing Long Marsh Ditch; Watson Road crossing Corsica River; and Flowers Road crossing Norwich Creek.
Quimby said the “hassle” involved with paper work under the federal bridge placement program doesn’t expedite the process.
“Federal aid. It’s a nightmare,” he said. “You have to wait five years sometimes for the money.”
He said the county relied mostly on state aid the past eight years but is hoping to utilize more federal dollars. The cost of a new 30- to 40-foot timber structure runs about $160,000, Quimby said. The cost of bridges more than 100 feet is harder to estimate, he said.
While state records showed Wicomico County has six bridges needing replacement, county engineer Kirk Banks said the county has no immediate plans to replace two of them – on Beach Island Road over Beach Island Creek and Muddy Hole Road over Broad Creek.
“Those two will be posted [with weight restrictions] but not replaced,” Banks said. “They carry 10 vehicles or less a day. These are timber bridges. They might crack and bend, but they’re not going to break.”
The four up for replacement, he said, are Morris Road crossing Campbell’s Ditch; Riverside Drive crossing Tony Tank Creek; Cooper Road crossing Cutmaptico Creek; and Royal Oak Road crossing Dennis Creek.
The replacement bridges are in the design and engineering phase, Banks said.
He said most of the bridges are 20- to 40-foot structures that will cost from $80,000 to $300,000. He said the county has been able to acquire ample federal funding.
Caroline County has four bridges requiring replacement, SHA records show. Two are the county’s responsibility. The other two are maintained by the state.
The county has been replacing its structures at a rate of three a year, said Chuck Emerson, the county’s director of public works.
Emerson said the county, which just opened the Pepper Road Bridge earlier this month and is scheduled to open the Laurel Grove Road Bridge in May, is replacing old timber bridges with state-of-the-art, glue-laminated timber structures.
“These older bridges were built for much lighter roads,” he said. Emerson expects new timber bridges to cost about $140,000 each, last about 50 years, and, when compared to steel or concrete structures, deliver “half the cost and twice the service.”
A 277-foot timber structure carrying Blades Road across Hunting Creek near the Caroline-Dorchester county line is scheduled to be replaced by 1998 at an estimated cost of $600,000, Emerson said.
State records indicated a bridge carrying Humberson Road over Buffalo Run as being in Caroline County. However, neither Caroline nor Dorchester officials were familiar with such a structure.
A bridge carrying state Route 314 across Choptank River, and another on state Route 315 over Marshyhope Creek also earned ratings calling for replacement, the records showed.
Kent County has a single replacement project, Chesterville Millington Road Bridge, a timber structure built in 1955. It is expected to be replaced by the end of 1996 at a cost of around $275,000, Wright said.
Cecil County is in the final design phase of its single concrete bridge replacement, across Back Creek. The Old Telegraph Road Bridge is expected to take from one to three years, said Charles Dominick, county bridge maintenance coordinator.
“It’s a monumental project for the county,” Dominick said.
Because of water and wetlands near the project, “costs for total replacement could be more than $1 million,” Dominick said, “with $800,000 of that being due to environmental concerns.”
Like Kent and Cecil counties, Dorchester and Worcester counties each have a single bridge to replace, SHA records show.
Chuck Weber, an engineer for Dorchester County’s highway department, said Shorter’s Wharf Bridge, a 200-foot timber bridge on Maple Dam Road and crossing Blackwater River, is being designed.
“In the past, we’ve had no trouble getting funds from the feds,” Weber said. He couldn’t estimate a cost or time of completion for the project.
The one bridge requiring replacement in Worcester County is a state-maintained structure on state Route 12 crossing the Pocomoke River, SHA records show. Additional information couldn’t be obtained from the county. -30-