The newly reconstructed Patapsco River Bridge on Route 40 connecting Baltimore and Howard counties is set to open in the coming days, causing lane shifts and closures.

According to a release from the Maryland State Highway Administration, eastbound traffic will shift back onto the reconstructed bridge starting Wednesday, Dec. 19, into Thursday, Dec. 20.

Weather permitting, westbound traffic will be shifted back to the original bridge Thursday, Dec. 27, but will be reduced to one lane, as construction crews dismantle the temporary bridge structures.

"In order to remove the temporary walls which support the temporary bridge/roadway, the right lane on westbound US Rt. 40 will be closed ... This area is extremely steep and it is impossible to remove the walls and temporary roadway from any location other than the right lane on the new bridge," SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said in an email.

For the past year, traffic has been traveling on temporary bridges surrounding the original structure. Eastbound traffic will remain traveling in two lanes. The right westbound lane is set to open in spring.

SHA urged motorists to plan for extra time in their drives for the next four to six months, or take different routes, as westbound traffic will be delayed because of the single lane, and construction activity dismantling the temporary bridge is ongoing.

"Motorists are strongly encouraged to consider using I-695 to I-70 to US Rt. 29, which can also be congested during peak travel times," Gischlar said. "Motorists might also consider using Frederick Road through downtown Ellicott City, depending on their destination."

Weather permitting, the entire project will be completed by summer.

SHA has spent $18 million and more than two years rehabilitating and partially reconstructing the Patapsco River Bridge. The bridge is 76 years old, and over the course of construction, crews reconstructed the 335-foot long bridge "from the arches upward," according to SHA. The driving surface has been replaced and slightly widened, the barriers on the bridge's sides have been replaced and the deck supports have been replaced.