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Rebuilding bridges that span time


Tim Fletcher emerged from the comfort of a heated SUV and looked out as the wind rippled across the water.

Standing on the College Creek bridge, he assessed the progress of a dual bridge reconstruction along Rowe Boulevard as crews used concrete and brick to patch the torn-up overpasses.

The cold blasts rippling over the exposed work site -- the other bridge is over Weems Creek -- quickly sent Fletcher and his tour group retreating to the sport utility vehicle.

"Yes, building bridges in the summer is much more pleasant," said Fletcher, a project engineer for the State Highway Administration, as he pulled the door shut.

Work has been around the clock since spring 2004 to rehabilitate two 50-year-old bridges that feed into the heart of Annapolis. So far, the $33 million project has hardly skipped a beat, despite the weather, the tight confinements, constant lane shifts, the roar of constant traffic and the close attention to environmental impact.

The nature of bridgework, especially when it involves pouring cement versus asphalt, lets crews work year-round, noted Fletcher and Mark A. Coblentz, an assistant district engineer at SHA.

So while the onslaught of winter puts the freeze on most road construction, crews working on the Weems Creek and College Creek bridges are using heaters and insulated blankets to keep the work sites warm and buzzing with activity.

State highway officials said the dual bridge project remains on track to finish this fall. The Weems Creek expanse has required a complete reconstruction, just west of the original bridge. The southside lanes are done, and crews will begin laying steel beams for the north side next month across the faux stone piers. Most of the old bridge has been demolished.

The College Creek bridge is being reconstructed from the piers up. The southbound lanes are done, and crews have laid 10 of the 16 concrete spans along the north side, Fletcher said.

When complete, the bridges will have two lanes and a shoulder in each direction, in addition to walkways. Coblentz said that as part of the project, the SHA will build a walkway from the Weems Creek bridge to the intersection of Bestgate and North Bestgate roads.

Designers hope to capture the historic ambience of Annapolis especially through the brick/metal archways that will be erected on each side of the College Creek bridge. Highway officials said aesthetics was an important consideration, given that the bridges serve as a link to the city's historic

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