Dyson Calls for Integrity Check of Johnson Bridge in Lieu of Minneapolis Disaster - Southern Maryland Headline News

Dyson Calls for Integrity Check of Johnson Bridge in Lieu of Minneapolis Disaster



The Thomas Johnson bridge, which connects lower Calvert County to St. Mary's County, is no stranger to structural deficiencies.  Several years after construction, design flaws were discovered which prompted the installation of the steel clamps pictured above to prevent the bridge from failing.  Local officials have called for assurance from the Md. SHA as to the bridge's current state of integrity in lieu of the catastrophic collapse of an Interstate bridge in Minneapolis. SoMd.com file photo.

GREAT MILLS, Md. (Aug. 2, 2007) – The day following the catastrophic collapse of an Interstate bridge in Minneapolis, State Senator Roy P. Dyson (D-29) called for an integrity check of the Governor Thomas Johnson bridge over the Patuxent River. The bridge connects lower Calvert County to St. Mary’s County and is a major thoroughfare for commuters who work at the Patuxent River Naval Complex. The bridge also serves as one of the key escape routes in the event of an emergency at the nearby Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power facility.

The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed yesterday evening during busy rush hour traffic. As early as 1990, the federal government classified the structure as “structurally deficient.” According to the federal database of nationwide bridges, 1-in-4 bridges (nearly 80,000) are currently classified as “structurally deficient” or “obsolete.”

Today, Dyson corresponded with Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) administrator Neil Pedersen. Dyson inquired of Pederson, “I would like to know when the last time this bridge was inspected, when it will be inspected again and what are the exact specifications that determine whether this bridge is safe.”

The entire correspondence is reprinted below.

Dyson has been a longtime proponent of a second span adjacent to the current bridge and commuter rail into the region, to alleviate the congestion on local roadways.

Attention to the aging national infrastructure has not been a priority in many years as many politicians preach tax cuts, small government, and the corporatization/privatization of the public trust and commons. In August 2005, New Orleans was devastated when known inadequate levies failed during Hurricane Katrina.  In August 2003, parts of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada experienced a sustained power blackout. Government experts blamed an outdated power grid.

Dear Neil:

As you know, I have been concerned about the safety of the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge for many years. I have put in legislation the past two General Assembly Sessions mandating that the Maryland Department of Transportation replace the bridge which is traveled extensively by thousands of my constituents every day. I am informed each year by you and others at the department during the hearings for this bill that the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge is inspected regularly and is safe.

I would like to know when the last time this bridge was inspected, when it will be inspected again and what are the exact specifications that determine whether this bridge is safe. Are these inspections cursory or do you look at the entire superstructure including below the water line.

As always, thank you for your attention to matters of concern to the constituents we are mutually privileged to serve and I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

All good wishes,

Roy Dyson

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