Rehabilitation of the Hanover Street Bridge Still Years Away as Funding Has Not Been Secured

| March 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

In June 2018, a two-year, $1.8 million study was completed that recommended a $50 million renovation of the 104-year-old Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, often referred to as the Hanover Street Bridge. Additional National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Army Corps of Engineers, and US Coast Guard studies are required before construction can begin, but those have not started as Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) has not secured funding for the project.

The plan for the bridge is to replace the concrete driving deck which has been falling into disrepair for years. The new deck would take 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 2 ft.-wide barriers separating the sidewalks from the driving lanes, and separating the middle two driving lanes.

This plan will also permanently close the drawbridge span. The steel grate grind deck would be filled with a new concrete surface. DOT will need US Coast Guard approval to permanently close the span.

In a statement, DOT Public Relations Officer Kathy Dominick said, “The NEPA study was funded in last year’s CIP, but the issue is that once this study is started, it triggers the 10-year federal rule meaning that the construction of a new bridge would have to be complete in that timeframe. Since we do not have a funding source yet for the replacement of the Hanover Street Bridge, the NEPA study has been delayed until funding can be identified.”

DOT Director of Communications German Vigil told the project will require State, Federal, and City funds and that it needs the state commitment first to secure federal funding. “We’ve been working really hard to get funding commitments,” said Vigil. He is hopeful they will get the commitment from the State of Maryland next year.

District 46 Senator Bill Ferguson, who’s state district covers both sides of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, said the decision is up to the Maryland Department of Transportation. He said in an email, “We don’t have governance over project-by-project selection with the transportation budget.” He noted the Maryland General Assembly approves the total spend, but would like to change this process in the future.

Vigil said once the funding is approved, DOT would then bid out for studies, which could take more than a year, and then the studies would be conducted. He said depending on the company selected, a study could take anywhere from six months to two years.

Vigil said new DOT Director Steve Sharkey, who took over the department in July after Michelle Pourciau resigned, is really focused on the bridge.

As large potholes have been an issue on the bridge for many years, a temporary asphalt surface was installed in 2018. As potholes are starting to emerge again on the bridge, Vigil said DOT is working hard to repair them and will consider pulling out entire chunks of the asphalt and refilling it as repaving season begins in the spring.

The bridge has been closed many weekends over the past year for repairs to the drawbridge span. Vigil said that if the span goes away in the future, it would eliminate a lot of weekend repairs. The bridge study said the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge requires $500,000 of maintenance each year and most of this funding is used to maintain the span.

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

The study looked into new bridge options that would’ve cost $195 million to $245 million. The study has also outlined $9 million to $26 million of additional corridor improvements north and south of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge.

A more pedestrian-friendly Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge is a key aspect to 11-mile park system along the Middle Branch the City of Baltimore is planning in partnership with Dutch architecture firm West 8.

Rendering from the Hanover Street Corridor Study 

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