In less than a week’s time, the city will shut down the well-traveled, woefully aged Harford Road Bridge spanning Herring Run, and begin the process of replacing the 106-year-old passageway with one better equipped for pedestrians and the estimated 22,000 cars that travel it each day.
The Baltimore City Department of Transportation announced the Nov. 19 closure today.
“The replacement of the Harford Road Bridge will have a tremendous impact on Baltimore’s transportation network,” DOT Director Michelle Pourciau said in a statement.
It will surely mean traffic backups as well. Signs have already been in place since last week letting drivers know ahead of time that the bridge through Northeast Baltimore will soon be non-traversable. (An overeager BGE also apparently began removing street lights lining the bridge, according to a post from the Facebook account Harford Road Bridge, which is operated by Councilman Ryan Dorsey.)
Harford Road will be shut down from Chesterfield to Walther avenues for approximately three years, DOT said. Detours nearby will re-route traffic along Belair Road and Hillen Road/Perring Parkway.
The replacement of the bridge–which was built in 1912, has been shedding pieces of concrete for years and, for a short period last spring, was gushing water–is being undertaken by contractor Technopref Industries of Alexandria, Virginia. The plan is to replace the crumbling concrete, three-arch bridge with a more structurally efficient girder bridge. It will be designed to mimic the look of the existing structure using “arch facades,” DOT said, and will also have ornamental lighting.
DOT plans to add new sidewalks and bike lanes catering to pedestrians and cyclists, and the bridge will receive utility and stormwater facility upgrades. DOT’s website for the project says the roadway design will include 11-foot-wide traffic lanes and 5-foot-wide bike lanes and sidewalks going in both directions. Plans don’t show any barriers separating the bike lanes from adjacent traffic.
The Harford Road Bridge project has been more than two decades in the making. Former Mayor Martin O’Malley promised to replace it three administrations ago, and officials had said it would be replaced within two to three years back in 2008, to no avail. Residents were also assured the bridge would soon be replaced in 2014—with plenty of fuss over proposed detour routes, the Brew reported—but the project was delayed for several years as officials prioritized other projects.
The viaduct is beyond worth saving, as it hasn’t received a Bridge Sufficiency Rating–a federal standard for evaluating bridges around the country–above 50 since 2005. (Specifically, its last rating in October 2016 was 47.4, though it earned a mark just shy of 40 as recently as 2010.)
DOT has been working with architecture and engineering firm Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP for years on the replacement plan. The city awarded the company nearly $482,000 in January 2017 for additional planning work, on top of more than $2 million that had previously already been paid to the company for planning work.
This summer, the Board of Estimates, chaired by Mayor Catherine Pugh, awarded $19 million to Technopref to do the physical work of replacing it. The bridge’s poor sufficiency rating makes it eligible for federal funding, which will cover all but 20 percent of the costs. The city will pay for the rest.
The Herring Run/Greenway Trail, which runs along Harford Road nearby, will also be rebuilt over the next three years. DOT said the trail will remain open during construction, but may be temporarily restricted at times.
DOT will be posting updates about the project on its website, the agency said. Those looking for details on progress or setbacks can also follow Dorsey’s Harford Road Bridge Facebook page.
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