Historic bridge to get makeover

October 09, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

FUNKSTOWN - The historic one-lane stone bridge on East Oak Ridge Drive, built in 1833, has been buffeted by high water and debris as well as increasing traffic flow for nearly 175 years.

A long-awaited rehabilitation of the bridge, slated to begin in June 2008, will result in a full closure of the span over Antietam Creek, according to bridge engineer Scott Hobbs.

"When it's closed, it will be closed until the work is done," Hobbs said. Though the estimate for the closing is six to seven months, Hobbs said hopes are the job can be completed in four to five months.

The stone piers will remain, although Hobbs said they will be repointed on both the upstream and downstream sides of the bridge.


"We did temporary repairs with concrete to stabilize the upstream piers on the American Legion side," Hobbs said. During the rehabilitation of the bridge, the old stones dislodged from those piers will be reinstalled and repointed with new mortar.

This work is being done to stabilize and strengthen the bridge.

"Concrete collars will also be built at the bottom of the piers so the stones will stay intact when the water is high," Hobbs said. At normal water height, those collars will just barely be visible above the water.

The work that will force the shutdown of the bridge will involve the roadbed and the stone walls.

Some people wanted the bridge to become two lanes and others wanted it to stay one lane, Hobbs said. Because of its historic nature, the Washington County Division of Public Works recommended that the bridge remain as a functional one-lane bridge.

In a July letter to Funkstown Mayor Robert Kline, the reasons for that decision were cited by Joe Kroboth, director of public works.

The historic nature of the bridge was one big consideration, the letter said. The difficulty of getting approvals from state and federal agencies to rehabilitate the bridge beyond its current appearance and function was another.

The letter said 80 percent of the project funding will be coming from the Federal Highway Adminstration, State Highway Administration and the Maryland Historic Trust.


The safe level of traffic maintained over the years was also pointed out with only three accidents documented in the past 14 years, despite the substandard width, the letter said.

"There is adequate sight distance for vehicle traffic on and off the bridge," Kroboth said in the letter.

He also noted that a decrease in traffic volume is expected with the anticipated construction of the future Funkstown bypass.

If the bridge were to be widened to two lanes, it would increase project costs plus the expense of the likely construction of a parallel two-lane bridge during the work, the letter said.

Hobbs said the stone on the sides of the bridge at road level will be reinstalled with new mortar.

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