Councilmen Costello and Reisinger Call for Immediate Repairs to the Hanover Street Bridge

| February 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

District 11 Councilman Eric Costello and Disrict 10 Councilman Edward Reisinger have called on the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) to perform an immediate “re-decking” of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, also known as the Hanover Street Bridge. The bridge connects Councilman Costello’s and Councilman Reisinger’s Baltimore City districts.

In a letter to DOT Director Michelle Pourciau the Councilmen said, “We believe the bridge must be “re-decked” immediately, regardless of estimated cost or existing priority.”

The letter adds, “In 2017, there were 41 property damage claims made by citizens which implicated the condition of the bridge as causing damage to vehicles, “Re-decking” is estimated to cost in the range of $5 million, while a complete rebuilding of the bridge is estimated to cost between $60 million and $100 million.”

According to a WMAR report, Joe Hooe of the Tire Network on S. Hanover St. has seen as many as 18 tire repairs due to the condition of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge in one day.

Any rebuilding or replacement of the bridge is expected to require at least five additional years of planning and studies.

The Councilmen are calling for a February 26th meeting with DOT staff to discuss options.

Also underway is the Hanover Street Corridor Study which has started to outline some options for future renovations – or a replacement – of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge. The team of consultants working on the study and DOT held a public meeting earlier this month.

The study is examining the condition and use of the 1.4 mile stretch of Hanover St. from Wells St. in South Baltimore to Reedbird Ave. in Cherry Hill that includes the bridge. The $1.8 million-study is funded by a $1.1 million-federal TIGER Grant and $700,000 from Baltimore City. The study was expected to be completed around this time, but will be extended to June due to delays caused by other transportation projects underway in the area.

After the study is complete it will be sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, DOT Transportation Director, and elected officials for a decision on how to move forward.

Now 102 years old, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge was built in 1916 and was rehabilitated in 1970 and 1992. It is .43 miles long and 72 ft. wide, and includes five driving lanes and two sidewalks. The bridge also features a moveable (bascule) main span which was opened four times in the past year for maintenance and twice for recreational sail boats.

The bridge requires $500,000 of maintenance each year. Most of this funding is used to maintain the span, according to the team of consultants at the meeting.

Approximately 37,500 vehicles, including 2,500 trucks, use the bridge each day, according to the study. Very few pedestrians and cyclists currently use the bridge. On the day it was studied, for example, this number was only seven.

Any bridge replacement or long-term renovation project likely wouldn’t start for at least another four to five years as future studies would still need to take place. This would include a design and construction plan, an environmental study, and a United States Coast Guard study to determine if closing off the span is possible.

DOT would also have to secure the funding which would range from $30 million to $245 million. Funding would likely come from City, State of Maryland, and Federal Government sources.

With the bridge’s driving deck surface currently in poor condition, the study has also laid out short-term maintenance options for the bridge. It is likely the bridge will need a deck replacement while planning takes place for a longer-term, more-expensive option.

DOT currently has $5 million set aside for bridge repairs that are likely begin this spring. The first two options in the study address short-term maintenance to fix the driving surface.

Option 1 is a replacement of the top driving deck for an estimated $10 million. This would also include repairs to the steel below the driving surface. An estimated $8.2-million Option 2 would grind away the top surface of the top driving deck, and apply a new skim coat of concrete.

Neither option would address the current alignment of the bridge which includes two five ft. sidewalks, which cause safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists according to the report; five driving lanes; and drawbridge span.

DOT would need to find an additional $3.2 million to $5 million in funding to move forward on either of these options. Neither would require further additional studies.

At the meeting, DOT Chief Engineer Muhammed Khalid said that the bridge is still structurally sound according to yearly inspections, but the goal is to get the bridge to last another 100-150 years, not another 15 years.

“We all acknowledge that the bridge needs major work, probably a replacement,” said Khalid.

Along with fixes to the deck, Khalid noted that some elements underneath the bridge need some rehab work.

Options 3 and 4 of the study include a new driving deck and a new alignment of the bridge surface.

Option 3 takes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge from a five-lane bridge to a four-lane bridge. The extra space is used to increase the sidewalks from 6 ft. in width to 8 ft. in width on one side, and to 10 ft. in width on the other side. The plan also includes new two ft.-wide barriers separating the sidewalks from the driving lanes, and separating the middle two driving lanes.

Option 3 is estimated to cost $30 million with no rehabilitation of the drawbridge span, $50 million if it permanently closes the span, and $70 million if it includes renovating the span.

Option 4 would renovate the bridge deck into a six-lane surface and remove the sidewalks. The span would be replaced with a new concrete surface. Pedestrians and cyclists would then use a new dedicated 15 ft.-wide bridge that is the same height as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge and that connects to trails at West Covington Park and Middle Branch Park.

Option 4 is estimated to cost $70 million with $50 million for the rehabilitation and $20 million for the pedestrian and cycling bridge.

Options 5 and 6 cover constructing a new bridge. Khalid stated that a new bridge would need to have the same historical architectural character as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge.

A new six-lane bridge would be 102 ft. wide and would include 12 ft.-wide sidewalks on each side that are protected with a barrier. It would also have a span. A barrier would additionally separate two middle driving lanes.

A new six-lane bridge is estimated to cost a total of $245 million with $15 million included in the costs to demolish the existing bridge.

A four-lane bridge with sidewalks is estimated to cost $195 million. The Coast Guard Study could reveal that a span is no longer needed or reveal the height needed to avoid having a span.

Due to new stop lights along S. Hanover St. that will be added in Port Covington, the study estimated that the difference in travel times between a six-lane bridge and four-lane bridge are minimal.

The team of consultants said a new bridge could potentially be built in phases to keep two lanes of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge open during the first phase of construction, and two lanes of the new bridge open during the second phase of construction.

The team of consultants also showed renderings of potential improvements underneath the bridge that could include public spaces for fishing, public art, and pedestrian paths. The plan also addresses path, sidewalk, and ADA-compliant improvements throughout the corridor.

Sagamore Development, the developer of the 266-acre Port Covington Master Plan, has proposed funding a $1.134 million lighting display for the bridge.

The Maryland Transportation Authority is also currently studying I-95 access improvements to Port Covington. This study will wrap up in early 2018. Last year, Sagamore Development detailed its recommendations for these improvements to the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA). They included a new exit to Port Covington off I-395, eliminating the South Hanover St. exit, and widening on and off ramps.

Sagamore Development has also proposed changes to Hanover St. from the bridge to McComas St. Much of Hanover St. in this area is an above-ground ramp and Sagamore intends to bring much of it back down to grade just past McComas St. Sagamore also plans on adding large sidewalks to Hanover St. as well as a median, on-street parking, trees, new landscaping, and new east/west intersections that are safe for pedestrians and vehicles. Though Hanover St. will not have dedicated bicycle lanes, new parallel streets to the east and west of Hanover, including Black St., will include them.

Sagamore was approved for $534,795,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from Baltimore City. In Sagamore’s proposal the TIF bonds would fund $10,311,500 going towards Hanover St. improvements from McComas to Wells St. with matching state and federal funds and $48,123,000 in TIF funds going towards Hanover St. improvements from McComas St. to the bridge.

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