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Work on Bay Bridge Must be Redone

Tue September 28, 2004 - National Edition
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ANNAPOLIS, MD (AP) More than half of the resurfacing work done so far on the westbound lane of the Bay Bridge must be redone, adding about $7 million to the project’s $60 million price tag and ensuring further traffic delays, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said cracks in the concrete began appearing last year after the contractor used a “state-of-the-art” resurfacing method to speed the project by allowing work to continue in cold weather.

The authority, which runs Maryland’s toll highways and bridges, is not sure what went wrong or whether the state or the contractor, Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield, ME, is liable for the additional costs.

“We have not determined the issue of fault. That is an important issue, but it is not as important as finding a solution and minimizing inconvenience to our customer,” Flanagan said.

But some inconvenience appears inevitable.

Flanagan said fixing the problem will force more lane closings than previously expected -- mostly in spring and fall next year. He said the peak summer season will not be affected.

In a news release, the authority said added bridge lane closures would cause “major delays and congestion” each weekend through this November.

Also through November, two lanes of the westbound bridge will be closed each night at 8 p.m., leaving a single lane. From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the entire westbound bridge will close and the eastbound span will be used for two-way traffic.

Meanwhile, engineers are testing a possible solution to the resurfacing problem. Flanagan said state engineers believe they can still complete the work by summer 2006.

Transportation officials confirmed the problems after concerns were raised on an Internet news group frequented by highway engineers and others with an interest in road building.

Del. Peter Franchot, who is chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on transportation, said he had not been informed and expects to hold a hearing on the matter.

“We will try to establish accountability to make sure this doesn’t happen again, because transportation dollars are too scarce,” the Montgomery County Democrat said.

Franchot said he hopes the liability will fall on the contractor. “If it should be the state, we’ll be very upset during the budget session,” he said.

Thomas L. Osborne, executive secretary of the authority, said the consultant had reported back just within the past month, and that the authority had been planning to notify the General Assembly and the public.

The resurfacing on the westbound bridge involves replacing the bridge deck for the first time since the newer part of the 4.3-mile Bay Bridge -- formally called the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge -- opened in 1973. The older eastbound span, which opened in 1952, was resurfaced in from 1987 to 1989.

The work involves scraping off the upper layer of roadway and adding a new layer of cement to the existing undersurface. To do the work, the authority has closed the left lane of the westbound bridge and closed other lanes at night and on weekends.

Flanagan said 52 percent of the new top layer didn’t adhere properly to the concrete layer below. He said that work represents 10 percent of the entire deck reconstruction project.

Cianbro, one of the largest highway construction companies on the East Coast, has extensive experience with bridge projects. Founded in 1949, it is an employee-owned firm with an estimated $300 million in annual sales and 2,000 employees.

The company has had several contracts with the state, including construction and demolition at Dundalk Marine Terminal.

Dottie Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Cianbro, said the matter was in the “investigative phase” and being done by an outside engineering firm.

The company issued a statement saying it was working with the state to resolve the issue.

“Cianbro has performed all work per the specifications of the contract and has not been implicated by the Maryland Transportation Authority,” said Mike Hart, Cianbro vice president and general manager of the company’s Baltimore operations in the statement.