ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris N. Glendening occasionally gets letters asking if Maryland bridges are safe. Because the state conducts routine bridge inspections, the governor says, “The answer is yes.”
Glendening offered the anecdote at a meeting of the Board of Public Works, which Wednesday approved spending $500,000 to conduct underwater inspections of state bridges. Hunt Valley- based KCI Technologies Inc. was awarded the three-year contract.
The governor used the Woodrow Wilson bridge on Washington’s Beltway to illustrate the need for inspections.
“The bridge is safe now,” he said. “But even if we found that it did need repair, it might be well into a decade before construction was completed.”
Divers from KCI will check bridges for structural flaws and search for cracks under the water’s surface.
“Maryland requires that bridges be checked every four years even though federal regulations say they need to be checked every five years,” said John Healy, spokesman for the State Highway Administration.
The contract with KCI, which runs through October 1998, is one of three inspection agreements between the state and private contractors. “We have them on a rotating basis, to make sure there is always someone looking at the bridges,” Healy said. Maryland officials, in response to a Capital News Service investigation in the spring, said that at least 73 bridges have been slated for replacement or repair by the end of fiscal year 1997.