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Watervale bridge project receives more funds; board of estimates members question if replacement is necessary

Road TransportationVerizonEnergy SavingWater Supply

Questions as to whether the replacement Watervale Road bridge, already under design, is really necessary were renewed this week as a county board increased funding for its design.

The $18,798.98 change order to the design contract with Wilson T. Ballard Company was approved Thursday morning by the Harford County Board of Estimates. The additional funding is needed so project will comply with a Department of Transportation regulation.

The bridge, which crosses Winters Run and has long been used as a shortcut between Bel Air and Fallston, will become two lanes. It was briefly closed in August 2009, while a temporary bridge was put in its place.

Construction of the $2 million bridge is expected to begin in May 2013, structural engineer Julio Espinoza said Thursday afternoon. He also said that the design process for the bridge, which has been going on "for a couple years now," will take until the end of 2012.

Board member Warren Hamilton asked why the county is replacing the bridge.

The one-lane bridge causes traffic to back up during rush hour, Espinoza said, but more importantly, "the structure is not sound." To just restore the bridge would destroy its historical integrity, he added.

County Councilman Jim McMahan asked why the bridge wasn't completely closed if it is structurally unsound. Member Bob Cooper, the director of public works for the county, explained that a temporary bridge was put in place for the time being, but was not a permanent solution.

Since construction on the bridge has been delayed numerous times, Jay Van Deusen asked if this step is "the absolute last thing before we start construction."

"I hope so," Espinoza said.

McMahan questioned why another bridge couldn't be built somewhere else for traffic to be diverted from the one on Watervale Road.

Harford County Executive David Craig explained that while engineers may say they can build a structure anywhere, it might not always been the best thing for the environment or the most cost effective. Replacing the bridge, he went on, is the best option for the county.

The additional money, which will be in addition to the $308,421.63 contract with Ballard, will be used for the project to comply with a section of the federal Department of Transportation Act of 1966. According to a memo sent by Espinoza to Deborah Henderson, director of procurement for the county, the act specifies that the Federal Highway Administration "cannot approve the use of historical sites unless a) there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land and b) the action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property resulting from use."

The work needed to adhere to these requirements was not "included in Ballard's approved scope of work," the memo went on.

Board of Estimates member Jay Van Deusen asked if those involved weren't aware of the requirements or if it was a caveat in beginning construction. Espinoza replied that he was aware of the requirements, but didn't know that the regulations specified in the act would be required for the bridge.

Despite hesitations from McMahan and Hamilton, the contract was unanimously approved.

Wheel Road improvements

Verizon crews are working more hours than originally planned to complete the company's utility relocation on Wheel Road. The increase in hours resulted in a $37,000 increase in costs for traffic control, a change order the board approved. The original contract was for $95,124, but will be bumped up to $132,124.

Glen Hebel, civil engineer for the department of public works, told the board that Verizon had wanted the county to allow the road to be closed, but "they wouldn't." The road was reduced to one lane during the project, which has cost the company more time and money.

To avoid such instances from occurring again, Hamilton suggested that anticipated traffic costs should be included in proposals, rather than having additional money awarded.

McMahan, frustrated with Verizon not including costs for traffic control in its original proposal, said, "What happened to when people bid on a contract and they had to work within that contract?" He then called the company "inefficient," saying he sees Verizon trucks on Wheel Road not moving and no visible progress being made on the project. "I think we need to stay on them like a sick dog."

Bynum Ridge stream stabilization

The board, despite opposition from two members, approved an award of $29,371.13 to Angler Environmental, of Hanover, for repairs to Bynum Ridge's stream stabilization effort.

Hurricanes Irene and Lee, in August and September, caused damage to the stream bank stabilization, a memo from civil engineer Michael Rist, stated. The money adds to the original contract of $115,079.21.

Hamilton said the company design "failed" for the project and that's why there was damage, but the county was "giving them [Angler] another $29,000 because they didn't do what they were supposed to do." Rist responded that he doesn't believe the damages had anything to do with the design and that it did not "fail." Hamilton, as well as McMahan, voted against the award, but it was still approved by the majority of the board.

In other business during Thursday's board of estimates meeting:

• Adams Robinson Enterprise, of Dayton, Ohio, was awarded a $36,736,000 contract for the Sod Run wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The company was the lowest bidder out of a total of five contract bids.

The project includes construction of the enhanced nutrient facilities funded by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Approval of the contractor and funding, Dave Pergrin with the division of water and sewer said, is dependent on MDE.

• Funds for the Joppatowne wastewater treatment plant upgrade were also approved.

American Contracting and Environmental Services, of Laurel, will receive $2,626,000 for the project, the lowest bidder out of four companies.

• Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland was awarded $103,566 to provide meals to six senior centers in Harford.

• The board awarded $67,407 to BGE to relocate utility poles on Schucks Road in Bel Air for construction of an access road to Schucks Regional Park.

• An insurance contract with Alliant Insurance Services, of Newport Beach, Calif., for one year, with two additional one-year options, was approved for $93,424. The contract will go toward excess workers' compensation insurance.

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