Bridge on wheels

Left to right, Oscar Codoba and Walter Martines, of P&S Painting, do touch-up work on the underside of the new northbound West Nursery Road span, which will replace the existing bridge over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston / October 10, 2012)

A construction mishap led Saturday to prolonged closures of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the West Nursery Road business corridor near BWI, but state officials said the roads should reopen by rush hour Monday morning.

The problem occurred as crews were carrying out a bridge replacement procedure that was being used for the first time in Maryland. To replace the two spans of the West Nursery Road overpass, they planned to wheel away the old bridges — built in 1948 — and roll new ones in.

But they had to halt their work about 12:45 a.m. because the existing bridge deck shifted while they attempted to remove it, according to Valerie Burnette Edgar, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration.

Crews will lift the deck, evaluate whether it's safe to put it back and, if possible, secure it in its original place, she said.

The parkway's northbound lanes could be opened early Sunday and West Nursery Road could open soon after, the highway administration said. A decision on when the roads will be reopened to traffic is expected early Sunday.

"We absolutely will have 295 open by Monday morning rush hour; we think it will be open long before that," Edgar said.

Southbound lanes of the parkway are open, the SHA said, but travelers should allow sufficient time when traveling to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The agency was scheduled this weekend to begin the work of replacing the overpass that feeds the business district around the airport as part of a $6 million project.

But as crews began to remove one of the bridge decks, Edgar said, the load shifted, jammed against abutments and could not be wheeled away. The deck is still intact.

"It shifted right in front of their eyes and shifted into the abutment in a way they knew they couldn't reset it," Edgar said. No one was injured during the procedure, she said.

Officials called in more than 35 trucks to transport the parts to assemble four large cranes to lift the bridge deck back into place.

The new 70-foot, 500-ton spans will be continue to be stored in the parkway median until they can be put in place.

Crews were originally expected to replace the second bridge deck, the one over the parkway's southbound lanes, next weekend, but Edgar said it's unclear whether that work will proceed as planned.

"We'll come up with a strategy," Edgar said.

If the deck is damaged and cannot be reinstalled, Edgar said it may have to be disassembled on site, which could prolong the closure of West Nursery Road.

In the meantime, the agency says, travelers should use Interstate 95, U.S. 1 or U.S. 29 as northbound routes.

Interstate 97 is also available as an alternative route, but the right lane from Benfield Boulevard to about Dorsey Road is closed for concrete repairs.

To avoid West Nursery Road, the SHA said, travelers should use Hammonds Ferry Road.

Although area businesses had anticipated the closures, managers said Saturday they hoped the problems wouldn't lead to a lengthy inconvenience for customers.

Jill Porter, director of sales at Wingate by Wyndham on Aero Drive, said the hotel had made plans to run alternative routes to pick up customers from the airport throughout the duration of the project.