State Highway Administration contractors will begin work late this month on a six-month project to shore up a portion of the Deer Creek stream bank in Rocks State Park to protect the section of Route 24 (Rocks Road) that runs parallel to the stream.
The SHA will have to close a 7.7-mile length of Route 24 to through traffic between Route 23 (East-West Highway) in Forest Hill and Route 165 (Federal Hill Road) in Pylesville starting July 28, spokesman Charlie Gischlar said Thursday.
The resulting detours will be in place until at least late fall, he said.
The $6.2 million project also involves grading a parking lot along Rocks Road and milling and resurfacing of some parts of the highway, Gischlar said.
Signs posted along the highway initially stated work would begin this Monday, but the start date has since been pushed back a week, to July 28.
Gischlar said officials were "dotting our Is and crossing our Ts" on the contracts and were preparing the detour route and work signs.
"It's not going to affect the overall completion date," he said of the delay.
The section of Route 24 involved serves as a commuter route between the northern and central portions of Harford County, and Gischlar said commuters will be detoured around those intersections via Routes 23 and 165.
"Local traffic can use it to access their homes and get to the park," he said of Route 24.
Motorists will not have access to the work area, which covers a shorter length of about 1,800 feet of Route 24 between Rocks Chrome Hill Road in the south and St. Clair Bridge Road in the north.
Gischlar said utilities in the work area will also be relocated temporarily.
Rocks State Park, which is operated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, will remain open, but there will be limited access to the gravel lot along Rocks Road where people can park and walk to the park's famed King and Queen Seat rock formation.
"The actual rock formation will be open for visitors, but it's going to be a little tough to park down there," Gischlar said. "We ask folks to plan ahead."
Gischlar explained that the project is necessary to ensure the stability of Rocks Road. He said that when the creek rises during a rain storm, the rising water puts "stresses on the slopes and the stream banks."
"Over the years, with some of the torrential storms we've had, the slope [along the creek] is starting to erode away," Gischlar said.
It is a project that has been in the works for more than five years. SHA presented plans to the public in 2009 that called for building a retaining wall and moving Rocks Road about 20 feet away from the creek, but the agency backed off after local residents protested about potential environmental damage. The plans were withdrawn, and the SHA formed a committee to work with the community and revamp the proposal.
Under the current plan, workers will build a 500-foot-long "imbricated" wall made with materials overlapping each other along the northern end of the work area and a 150-foot slope stabilization area with grading, deep-rooted vegetation and boulders at the southern end.
Residents were much more receptive of those plans when they were presented in April during a public hearing at North Harford High School held by the Maryland Department of the Environment as SHA officials sought a permit to work in Deer Creek.
Gischlar said the SHA has obtained the necessary permits.
"It's something that has to be done, so it'll be a minor inconvenience for about five months until they get the job done," Bruce Kabernagel, who lives off Rocks Station Road near the construction area, said Thursday.