Chesapeake Bay Bridge redecking has resumed

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Special to the Record Observer

@Byline:By JACK SHAUM

STEVENSVILLE The final phase of the re-decking of the westbound span of the Bay Bridge has resumed and overnight closures of that span are planned so the work can take place.

Weather and traffic volume permitting, the westbound span could close as early as 8 p.m. each night Mondays through Saturdays, said Kelly Melhem, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority. The overnight closings are expected to begin as soon as the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 8, she said.

Plans call for all lanes to reopen in time for the rush hour each morning. Later openings are possible on weekend mornings.

Drivers arriving at the bridge after 8 p.m. should expect delays. During complete shutdowns, two-way traffic will operate on the other span. The speed limit for two-way traffic is 40 miles an hour and motorists should turn on their headlights during two-way, Melhem said.

The speed limit on the westbound bridge is 45 miles an hour during one-way traffic for the duration of the construction work.

The overnight lane closings are required so construction crews can complete preparations for replacing the bridge deck on the through-truss portion of the westbound bridge. That's the part with the steel superstructure above the roadway near the Eastern Shore end of the span.

Steel plates, like those used in earlier bridge work, will be put in place on the bridge deck as early as Sept. 9 to allow the bridge to fully reopen to traffic in the morning during the construction period.

Re-decking includes the removal of 156 old concrete deck sections and replacing them with new pre-cast concrete sections. This work, along with the replacement of overhead lane signals and spot painting of the bridge, will continue through the fall of 2010, Melhem said.

Once preparations are complete, the actual re-decking will resume sometime this month. The new deck sections, complete with railings already in place, are being pre-fabricated at Sparrows Point outside of Baltimore and brought by barge down to the bridge

Workers have been busy in recent weeks installing a debris shield beneath the roadway that is to prevent anything from falling into the water during construction. Steps also have been taken to protect the various wires and cables on the bridge. Temporary work platforms have been installed on the outside of the bridge railing for use by construction workers.

As part of the redecking and renovation process, construction crews will continue replacing the overhead lane signals on the westbound span. Those overhead lane signals have already been replaced on the eastbound bridge.

Redecking of the main suspension span was completed in April. The rest of the bridge was completed earlier.

In addition to the work on the westbound span, crews are continuing repairs to the parapets on the eastbound span.

During that work one eastbound lane closes on Sundays from 9 p.m. to midnight and the entire bridge is closed from midnight until 5 a.m. Monday.

Workers have moved all the guardrails from the roadway side of the parapets to the outside of the parapets and are drilling holes to install new anchor bolts through the parapets and into the bridge deck, Melhem said. The temporary bolts on the roadway side will then be removed and the parapets will look as they did before the temporary repairs were made.

This work is expected to be completed sometime this fall.

Those temporary repairs to strengthen the concrete and steel parapets were made last September following an accident in which a tractor trailer crashed through one of the parapets and into the Bay, killing its driver.

The MdTA has begun handing out fliers at the toll booths to tell motorists about the bridge re-decking and parapet work, Melhem said.

Motorists can also stay on top of bridge traffic conditions by calling 1-877-BAYSPAN, by logging onto www.baybridge.com, and by signing up for e-mail alerts for the latest information.

There will also be a community outreach meeting at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department Hall on Sept. 21 to discuss the bridge project with the public, Melhem said. That meeting will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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