Pesky summer construction is in full swing on the Md. 355 Bridge over the CSX tracks within the historic Monocacy National Battlefield.
Preliminary work by The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) to replace the 87-year-old bridge began in September 2017; however, crews were slowed when winter weather hit.
“The bulk of the work is happening now,” said Charlie Gischlar, spokesperson for MDOT SHA, about the $8.2-million project on Urbana Pike.
In this months-long phase of construction, crews are working to have a temporary bridge up and running. The temporary bridge “will have the same alignment as the new bridge,” Gischlar explained. This is a positive step for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists—including those who plan to visit the battlefield—because traffic will continue undeterred during construction of the new bridge.
“It is a more expeditious way and safer. Crews don’t have to work under safety concerns,” Gischlar added.
An additional drainage system will not be needed, nor will trees need to be removed. This will help to offset the $600,000 cost to rent and assemble the temporary bridge.
In addition to replacing the bridge, MDOT SHA is installing an eight-foot sidewalk on the east side of the structure, as well as bicycle-compatible shoulders.
After the bridge is constructed, crews will also install pedestrian trails on both sides of the CSX tracks. “This will give pedestrians and bicyclists safe access on both sides of the park trail,” said Gischlar. “The walkway itself is important, because it gives pedestrians a better way to get to the historic battlefield. A lot of people do visit it. There are a lot of enthusiasts, and it is a well-used park.”
These trails will enable park officials to expand access to new areas of the battlefield not currently available to visitors.
Monocacy National Battlefield Supervisor Chris Stubbs is lauding the new amenities. “The new trail underneath the new bridge leads up to the New Jersey Monument from the Junction parking lot where the railroad tracks come together,” Stubbs said. He added that the trails will accommodate more visitors, giving them a safer route to sightsee while alleviating the current difficult turn into the New Jersey Monument.
Governor Larry Hogan announced late last year that progress was being made on all 69 structurally deficient bridges across the state of Maryland. “Our administration is using innovative concepts to restore our bridges while having a minimal impact on our citizens’ daily lives,” Hogan said.
Gischlar was quick to point out that all of the bridges deemed deficient were not on the verge of falling down but were in need of repairs.
MDOT SHA’s contractor, C. William Hetzer Inc. of Hagerstown, will shift traffic from the existing bridge onto the temporary bridge. All travel lanes will be maintained during construction.
“There should not be much disruption to the Md. 355 traffic during this time, but there is a possibility for flagging operations during off-peak times for the safety of the workers and the traveling public,” Gischlar said.
The temporary bridge will separate work and crews from traffic and help to expedite construction of the new bridge.
More than 11,000 vehicles use this portion of Md. 355 each day. The project is slated to be completed during the summer of 2019.