Baltimore transportation officials say they plan to begin major repair work on the aging Hanover Street Bridge next year — but say it will cost more than $100 million to properly rebuild or replace the structure.
That’s not fast enough for two members of the Baltimore City Council, who say they’re deeply concerned about the bridge’s poor condition and want fixes made now.
“That bridge should have been done yesterday,” said City Councilman Ed Reisinger, who with Councilman Eric Costello wrote a letter to Transportation director Michelle Pourciau last week over the deteriorating structure. “My concern is cars are driving over and there are holes in the bridge. It’s got to be done now. That’s why we sent the letter.”
In the letter, Reisinger and Costello said they had “grave concerns” over the condition of the bridge, which was built in 1916 and connects South Baltimore to Cherry Hill.
“We believe the bridge must be ‘re-decked’ immediately, regardless of estimated cost or existing priority,” they wrote. “In 2017, there were 41 property damage claims made by citizens which implicated the condition of the bridge as causing damage to their vehicles.”
The councilmen said it would cost about $5 million to “re-deck” the bridge, which would provide it with a new surface for cars to drive over.
In an email to The Baltimore Sun, Adrienne Barnes, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, said Tuesday that doing major work to the bridge is one of the agency’s “top priorities.”
“The 100 year old bridge is reaching the end of its useful life,” Barnes wrote. “The major rehab or replacement that is needed will cost well in excess of 100 million dollars.”
She said transportation officials have developed “an interim plan” that will address the bridge’s most urgent needs. It includes “re-decking” the bridge, but also repairing the draw span. Officials expect that work to begin in spring of 2019, Barnes said.
“In the meantime, Baltimore City DOT continues to proactively monitor the bridge to assure that it remains safe,” she wrote, adding that workers will perform repairs “as needed.”
While he said he was pleased transportation officials acknowledged the need for “re-decking” the bridge, Costello said the work needs to be done immediately.
“The bridge is a public safety hazard,” he said. “Waiting a year to repair it is completely unacceptable.”
In 2016, Baltimore's spending panel approved a $1 million, four-year contract with a consultant to study whether the city should repair or replace the bridge.
Using a federal grant, the city hired AECOM Technical Services Inc. to study the bridge, which is a main route to get to the Port of Baltimore. Residents frequently complain that the bridge is riddled with potholes.
A spokesman for then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at the time it was unlikely the bridge would be demolished because it has “architectural merit.”
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Concerns about the bridge come as Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is planning a massive development in Port Covington for which the bridge would serve as a main route.