County officials residents discuss bridge closure

September 03, 2004|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A 175-year-old bridge that has been closed for repairs for more than a year has not only been an inconvenience, but has taken a toll in time and money, some residents living west of Hagerstown said Thursday.

For some, it's meant digging deeper into their pockets to pay for gas because of the detour around the stone arch Broadfording Road Bridge, residents told the Washington County Commissioners on Thursday.

At least 50 residents who live near the bridge met with the County Commissioners about the county's plan to fix the one-lane structure.


Four of the five commissioners attended the 45-minute meeting that took place on the bridge. Commissioner Doris J. Nipps was absent.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, and state Sen. John Hafer, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, also attended.

Terry Stotelmyer said after the meeting that he and his wife shell out about an extra $100 a month for gas to get to and from their home on Broadfording Road.

He estimated the detour adds eight hours of travel time a month.

Joel Merrbaugh, who sells shale, said the extra travel time has affected his bottom line, because the cost of shale isn't enough to offset the increased cost of diesel fuel.

Merrbaugh's shale pit is just feet from one end of the bridge. He lives on the opposite side of the bridge.

Because the bridge is closed, he must drive his 26,000-pound dump truck an extra seven to 10 miles to get to the pit.

One resident said during the meeting that the commissioners should offer property tax breaks to residents of the area to make up for additional gas costs and wear and tear on their vehicles resulting from the detour.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he didn't know how the county could calculate such a tax break but, "I guess that's something we can think about."

Snook, who spoke for most of the meeting, told the residents that the bridge likely will be repaired to the point that it can be opened this winter, but it will close again in late spring so the work can be completed.

The County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to a $1.4 million contract with Building Systems Inc. of Hagerstown to fix the bridge.

The cost of the project is about $707,000 more than the amount the county originally budgeted, but the commissioners voted to spend the extra money after a dispute kept the bridge closed longer than anticipated.

The project is expected to begin Oct. 18 and continue through the end of the year, when work will stop for the winter, according to a written statement.

The bridge will be open from about Jan. 1, 2005, through June 1, 2005, when it will be closed again so the contractor can finish the job.

The county anticipates the project will be completed by Sept. 30, 2005, Snook said.

The county closed the bridge in June 2003. It was to be finished later that year, but the county and the original contractor couldn't agree on the cost of additional work needed because of weather-related damage to the bridge.

The commissioners terminated that contract in March 2004 and have been looking for another contractor since then.

The stone four-arch bridge over the Conococheague Creek was built in 1829 by Lloyd's of Pennsylvania.

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