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Detours, traffic woes to end with Sinclair Lane Bridge reopening Monday, city says

A bridge replacement project that has forced nearly 30,000 drivers a day to take detours through East Baltimore will end next week after two years of cost run-ups and delays.

Both Edison Highway and Sinclair Lane will reopen to traffic Monday with the completion of a new bridge carrying the intersection of the roads over CSX Transportation's main freight railroad line through the city, the Baltimore Department of Transportation is expected to announce Friday.

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"We're hoping that this is going to alleviate a lot of the traffic congestion and inconvenience that has been caused by the time it has taken to get this bridge reopened," said William Johnson, the city's transportation director.

Residents and commuters, long forced to detour onto Belair Road and Erdman Avenue, "have been very patient and deserve some relief, and we're happy it's finally going to come," Johnson said.

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The bridge, near the Erdman Shopping Center at the north end of the Orangeville Industrial Area, was closed in May 2012, when the two roads carried a combined average of 28,200 vehicles a day, city officials said.

Initially drivers were told that the closures would last until November 2013 under a $5.7 million contract to repair the deteriorating bridge.

However, when the work began, officials realized the bridge's 1893 foundation could not support the newly refurbished bridge they had designed under current highway safety standards.

Back in 1893, "they didn't have tractor-trailers and dump trucks," said Scott Weaver, the transportation department's chief of bridges.

With the need for a new foundation, the project's cost and time span ballooned, Weaver said. The closure was extended another year and the cost increased to nearly $8.5 million.

The work also was complicated by the fact that it had to occur on top of CSX's main freight line, which required "a lot of coordination," Weaver said.

The old bridge was owned by CSX but inspected by the city. Given that ownership, CSX paid about $6.3 million of the project costs, Johnson said. The state paid about $1.8 million, and the city about $400,000, he said.

"It's great," Johnson said of the arrangement to share expenses, which he said limited the city's "out of pocket" costs.

The new bridge is owned by the city, which will also maintain it and continue to inspect it, Johnson said.

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