More than 10,000 motorists who have been inconvenienced for months by the closing of Morgan Run Bridge on Route 32 soon will be able to drive on it over Liberty Reservoir again.
"We have told the contractor it must be open by Dec. 21," said Douglas Rose, district engineer for the State Highway Administration in Frederick.
The reopening is about 10 days ahead of schedule.
"We said we would be open by the end of the year," said Mr. Rose, who didn't know the time the bridge would open on Dec. 21.
"People may not be able to use it going to work in the morning, but when they come home that night it will be open," he said.
Workers are painting the under surface of the bridge in the final stage of the $2.8 million project, which was awarded to the Richard F. Kline Co. of Frederick.
The project, which has disrupted Route 32 traffic since May 5, covered six miles of the highway from Route 26 in Eldersburg to Nottingham Road in Gamber.
"The average daily traffic count on that section is 10,400 vehicles per day, a fairly significant number," Mr. Rose said.
Closing the bridge was the only option.
"It was impossible to work on one lane at a time," he said.
Putting a time limit on the project was difficult, because the contractor could not determine the condition of the bridge's structural steel elements until the contact deck was removed.
Crews worked weekends and holidays. Had "everything gone perfect, we could have been done in November," Mr. Rose said.
The SHA office did not receive a many of complaints about the closing, he said. Before it was closed, SHA employees met with owners of businesses north of the bridge to discuss the project.
"As soon as we had a closing date, we met with business owners and told them what to expect," he said. "We also promised to help them in any way we could."
During the summer, motorists often encountered delays as they tried various detours on back roads and found Carroll County crews working on several road improvements simultaneously.
"We had a few coordination problems because we didn't touch base with Carroll County," Mr. Rose said.
While the state repaired the bridge, the county shut a section of Klee Mill Road, which winds around Route 32, and did work on Bartholow Road that slowed traffic. Route 97 also was repaired.
"Our project had been in the works for a long time, and we always detour traffic onto state routes, which can sometimes be a little out of the way," Mr. Rose said. "Drivers use the back roads on their own, and many of those cannot handle the increased traffic volume."
Emergency crews from Gamber Volunteer Fire Department may have been the most inconvenienced.
"We run a good amount of calls south to Sykesville," said 1st Lt. Brendan Gable. "We had to take round-about routes."