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Washington County moving forward with plans to close Funkstown bridge

July 01, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

FUNKSTOWN -- Washington County is moving forward with plans to close a one-lane bridge in Funkstown for five months despite continuing protests from some merchants who say the closure, which is needed for repairs, will hurt their businesses.

The county plans to close the stone-arch bridge on East Oak Ridge Drive in early August, Public Works Deputy Director Robert J. Slocum said last week.

The closure, which is needed to rehabilitate the 175-year-old bridge, is projected to last for five months.

Slocum said the county hopes to start work Aug. 4.

With the project's planned 150-day construction schedule, the bridge would be closed until Dec. 31.

The planned closure has drawn complaints from merchants who rely on traffic along East Oak Ridge Drive for business.

Those merchants have asked the county to install a temporary bridge until the work is finished, insisting that money is available.

In an April letter to Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, an official with the Maryland State Highway Administration said that federal bridge funds distributed by the state "most probably would" be available to help pay for a temporary bridge.

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The money could be used to pay up to 80 percent of the total cost of the temporary bridge, including the structure itself, utility relocation, roadway tie-ins and right of way purchases.

While county officials acknowledged that money is available, they have said the time required to secure rights of way and install a temporary bridge would delay the project until next year.

Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth II and others have said that the bridge is in immediate need of repairs that cannot wait that long.

During a public hearing in May, Kroboth described several signs of decay since the bridge was last rehabilitated in 1983.

Cracks in the arch beneath the bridge have widened and deepened, the bridge walls have pushed out about two inches and the roadway is beginning to sink.

"These are all clear indications of structural deficiency. This is about ensuring public safety," Kroboth said at the meeting.

The Washington County Commissioners voted in May to advertise bids for the project without a temporary bridge.

The 30-day bid period ended last week.

The lowest bid came from Building Systems Inc. of Hagerstown, the only local company displayed on the county's Web site as having bid on the project.

Building Systems Inc. bid $1.24 million for the project, about $20,000 less than the county's estimate of $1.26 million.

The other four bids ranged from $1.38 million to $1.95 million.

The Washington County Commissioners will have to determine whether to accept the bid.

They are scheduled to vote on the matter at their next meeting July 8.

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