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More renovations for Hatem Bridge

After nearly four years and several million dollars spent to rebuild the deck of the Thomas Hatem Route 40 bridge, more work on the span is coming.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, or MdTA, said it will repaint parts of the bridge over the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville, and that's just a start.

The $10.8 million project to clean and paint specific steel portions of the Hatem Bridge is designed to extend its longevity, according to a news release from the operator of the state's toll roads, tunnels and bridges.

According to MdTA, this latest upgrade will help maintain the bridge's structural integrity and is part of several efforts to preserve the bridge.

The state agency noted it is just about finished what it calls the $66.8 million Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge Preservation Project, which started in spring 2008. Most of that work was a deck renovation, where the MdTA replaced the bridge deck's concrete.

The project also involved repairs to the concrete piers and installation of a permanent jersey barrier in the center of the bridge.

Unlike the preservation project, which required one lane closure in each direction for long periods, according to MdTA spokesperson Teri Moss, the painting may only require one lane to be closed during off-peak hours.

According to the news release, lane closures may be in effect Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Prior to this year, according to the press release, the last time the Hatem Bridge was painted was in 1990.

Concurrent with the painting project, Moss wrote in an e-mail that a second renovation project is expected to start shortly.

The $54.3 million in underwater repairs to the bridge's support piers is scheduled to begin in the fall, Moss wrote. This project, she added, is expected to take two years to complete.

Unlike the other two jobs, the underwater project should have little impact to commuters, according to Moss, since most of the work will be done underneath the bridge and in the water.

"It will involve in-river excavation and cofferdam construction around the bridge piers beneath the river's surface," she wrote.

Moss also added later that there would be no visible construction work for that particular project until February or March of 2012.

Since the MdTA released proposed toll increases for the Hatem Bridge and Millard Tydings I-95 Bridge, residents of both Harford and Cecil counties have packed MdTA hearings to express concerns and anger over the decision.

The most recent Hatem Bridge news release reflects an MdTA effort to show commuters that toll revenues go toward providing safe transportation, according to Moss.

The painting news release is emblazoned with a new logo, "TOLL DOLLARS AT WORK," which, according to Moss, is to help residents see that the toll revenues are used for "operations, maintenance, renovations and preservation projects at our facility."

The Hatem Bridge opened in August 1940, according to the MdTA website, and has undergone several repairs since then, including a previous deck resurfacing in 1982.

The MdTA website also refers to the Hatem Bridge as the oldest of the seven toll facilities it maintains and operates.

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