ANNAPOLIS – Resurfacing work on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is complete and drivers can expect use of all five lanes by Nov. 20, just in time for Thanksgiving travel, transportation officials announced Friday.
The left lane on the westbound span of the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge has been closed since September after cracking was discovered in December 2003. After weeks of lane closures followed by additional lane closures — all of which caused extensive traffic backups — contractors completed the final pouring Wednesday night, said Catherine Leahan, Maryland Transportation Authority director of public safety information.
The concrete needs an additional five days to cure, and the lane will be closed another day to remove wall barriers separating the lane, said Leahan. After that, the lane will be open, ahead of the Nov. 24 deadline.
“We know that this Bay Bridge work has been terribly inconvenient to customers and we are very appreciative that they have been as patient as they could be under the circumstances,” said Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan.
Although left-lane work is complete, the center lane still needs to be resurfaced. But, no new work will be done before the New Year.
The total cost of the project, including the rework is $43.5 million, according to the MdTA. The resurfacing costs exceeded $7 million because the new concrete used was more expensive than the original.
The bridge project will continue through spring 2006, said Flanagan.
With the rework complete, drivers will finally have full access to the bridge for the first time since September.
“The agony is over,” said John White, AAA Mid-Atlantic manager of public and government relations.
Not only will it make driving easier, it will also be safer because drivers will not be merging when approaching the toll plaza, said White.
“The more capacity you can have the better,” said White. “It will certainly make things easier on the motorist (and) on their stress level.”
Four lanes on the bridge will be open for this weekend’s waterfowl festival, but some lane closures will continue next week. The center lane will close around 9 p.m. and all lanes on the westbound side will close between 10 and 11 p.m. and reopen at 5 a.m. to allow workers to remove equipment, said Erin Henson, Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
Removing the barriers could delay the opening of the left lane, because they cannot be moved in the rain for safety reasons, said Leahan.