State Highway Administration bridge inspectors closed the westbound Interstate 70 between I-695 and Route 29 on Friday at 4 p.m. shortly after finding the beginning of a small crack in a steel girder under the I-70 bridge over the Patapsco River, according to Lora Rakowski, a public information officer for the SHA.
The highway connecting Baltimore with Ellicott City and points west in Maryland is expected to be closed until 5 a.m. Monday while repairs are made, the administration said. The closure means that motorists will not be able to get onto westbound I-70 from either the inner loop or outer loop of the Baltimore beltway.
The SHA is recommending drivers take either Liberty Road or Route 40 from the beltway as an alternative to I-70. From interstate 95, Rakowski said, the agency is recommending motorists take 100 west to 29 north to get to I-70. The Patapsco River bridge is at the Baltimore and Howard county line. The highway will remain open from 29 West.
The agency said it is adjusting the timing of traffic signals along Route 40 and Liberty Road to handle the anticipated increase in traffic.
Rakowski said the crack was first discovered by a bridge painting crew. They called the bridge inspectors who arrived and decided at 3:30 p.m. "out of an abundance of caution" to close the bridge immediately. The crack was found in one of the major support beams for the highway.
Work to repair the crack could not have been done while traffic was crossing the bridge because of both the weight of the cars and the movement and vibration.
Crews that include bridge engineers and contractors will be working 24 hours a day to complete the work, Rakowski said.