Stoney Creek Bridge

Stoney Creek Bridge will be closed starting on July 8th for approximately 5 weeks. The main focus of the repairs is the drawbridge, but the bridge will also get new fencing. Tarps and beams underneath the bridge have already started to be installed as seen on the left side of the bridge in preparation for construction work to begin. (Photo by Erin Kirkland, Baltimore Sun / June 30, 2013)

Gary Gakenheimer lives in the Chestnut Hill Cove neighborhood on one side of the Stoney Creek Bridge in northern Pasadena.

On the other side of the bridge: his barber, his grocery store, several fast-food restaurants.

For five weeks starting Monday, Gakenheimer and his neighbors will be cut off from those businesses, churches and friends who live on the other side of Stoney Creek. The State Highway Administration is shutting down the bridge for a $1.8 million renovation and repair project.

"The businesses are what's going to have a major impact," said Gakenheimer, the community association president. "I feel sorry for them."

The bridge closure, while inconvenient, is necessary to renovate the 66-year-old bridge, highway officials say.

"Everybody wants this done and back open as soon as possible," said Bob Rager, the State Highway Administration's community liaison.

The headaches for Pasadena's residents and businesses are likely to be severe during the shutdown. The only detour will take motorists 10 miles out of their way, all the way down to busy Mountain Road.

The drawbridge typically handles 18,000 cars per day and 1,000 openings for boats per year.

During the closure, workers will clean, paint and repair the undersides of the approaches to the draw span, which are being wrapped in protective fabric to keep debris from getting into the creek. A 60-by-90-foot barge will be stationed under the bridge for staging equipment and housing a vacuum system.

The draw span will be left open during the five-week repair period so metal can be blasted and repainted. Workers will inspect and recoat all of the gears and axles in the "bascule pit" or machine room of the drawbridge.

Metal fencing along the bridge surface will be ripped out and replaced as well. There also will be some repaving on the road leading up to the bridge.

"It's an old bridge; it's never had this much work," said James Folden, assistant district engineer for construction.

The work will be loud and will be occurring nearly around the clock, with the contractor planning to have workers on two 10-hour shifts daily. The project will be carried out by Astron General Contracting, a North Carolina company.

The staff at Lauer's Supermarket & Bakery on the south side of the bridge is bracing for the closure. Owner Babette Poyer estimates 30 percent to 40 percent of her customers live on the other side of the bridge. The store is offering home delivery for those customers and boosting its coupon offerings in hopes of preventing customers from switching to other stores during the bridge project.

Some staff members are taking vacations during the closure, Poyer said.

Despite the inconvenience and the likely loss of business, she praised the State Highway Administration for its outreach operation. She said officials have listened to concerns raised by residents and business owners.

"I think they've done a good job trying to keep everyone informed," she said. "We'd rather have it not closed, but they made the decision that it's the best way to fix the bridge."

Poyer said she appreciates SHA crews installing signs to let drivers know that businesses near the bridge are still open, as well as the creation of a shuttle service to take walkers and bike riders through the detour.

To get the word out, SHA officials have sent mailers to 45,000 homes and hosted a community meeting in May that was attended by hundreds. More recently, they've been installing temporary signs and preparing to put messages on overhead signs as far away as the Baltimore Beltway.

Residents who've given the SHA their email addresses will get weekly updates on the project's progress. Officials say the project could be completed by Aug. 13, if all goes well.

Police officers and firefighters also have to adjust to losing access to a main thoroughfare.

There are volunteer fire stations located on each side of the bridge — Orchard Beach less than two miles to the north and Riviera Beach less than a mile south.

"We have stations that are very close to either side of the bridge, so the immediate response is going to be unaffected," said Division Chief Keith Swindle, a spokesman for the county fire department. "However, additional units may have to change their path of travel, which could affect times."

The fire department has been sharing information about the bridge closure and alternate routes with stations throughout the county, Swindle said.

"They'll just change their route of travel," he said.

pwood@baltsun.com