Thomas Johnson Bridge Declared Safe But Joint Replacement Will Commence

By Adam Ross, County Times

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (September 20, 2007) Officials from the State Highway Administration (SHA) declared the 30-year-old Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge safe Tuesday, saying they would move up an inspection set for January to this weekend in response to the interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people.

Crews should be done inspecting in early October, and will share the results soon after, according to Doug Simmons, an associate administrator for state highway.

“I assure you that Maryland bridges are safe,” Simmons said to the St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners at its weekly Tuesday meeting. “We are seen as an industry leader as far as our bridge inspections.”

SHA inspects the bridge every two years. As part of the bridge’s regularly scheduled maintenance, a project is moving forward to repair six aluminum joints. However, Simmons hastened that the bridge is “structurally sound and in good condition.”

The Thomas Johnson Bridge is just one of $40 billion worth of unmet transportation needs SHA is planning for. Representatives from the Maryland State Highway Administration met with the commissioners last week and said a possible expansion of the bridge is likely 9 year away in a “perfect” world.

That perfect world seems less and less apparent, as a state budget crisis looms over state legislators, and the U.S. Department of Transportation struggles with its own trust fund caused in part by Minneapolis’s bridge collapse.

“You cannot look to the federal government,” said Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation. “They are certainly in worst shape than we are.”

For the first time in several years, the state’s capital projects list has no new money and no new projects, Staley said.

Transportation has gotten older, bigger and harder to maintain, leaving the state some hard choices with project planning and additional revenue sources.

Thirty-one percent of the state’s bridges are 50 years old or older. The Route 40- Thomas Hatem bridge connecting Harford and Cecil Counties and US 301 Harry Nice bridge connecting Charles and King George Counties are both approaching 70 years of age.

In 1993, MDOT raised revenue with an increase to the gas tax, but over the last two years, as crude oil prices have sky rocketed due in part of the instability in the Middle East, raising that tax every three or four years is a detested prospect by most Marylanders.

A solution is essential as revenue sources continue to lag way behind the pace of inflation.

Staley said that Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, who was supposed to be in attendance Tuesday but was unable to attend at the last minute, would likely look to index the gas tax and raise revenues by other means. Just what those other means will be has not yet been revealed.

The other projects discussed Tuesday included an upgrade and widening of MD 237, also known as Chancellors Run Road, whose projected 2030 traffic estimate is expected to nearly double. Simmons said he expects work to begin this winter, or by spring at the latest. The project should take two and a half to three years to complete.

The Solomons Island Road (MD 4) leading up to the Thomas Johnson Bridge is still at the beginning of the planning study, and still needs roughly $4 million to complete the project-planning phase. Commissioner Daniel H. Raley (D-Great Mills) pointed back to an article in

The Enterprise newspaper published in 1975 that quoted the same project’s planning as 50 percent complete – meaning in 32 years the project has made virtually no progress.

Being forthright, and what appeared to be mildly sentimental, Raley suggested he knew the project planning for Solomons Island Road and the intersection with MD 235 wouldn’t get done this year.

“And know as I sit here, you folks [from SHA and MDOT] are being nice, but tell John [Secretary Porcari] that I mentioned it now, and when he comes back next year I’m going to mention it again.”

Commissioner Raley reminded the state’s transit officials that the county doesn’t get the benefit of a lot of mass transit hoping it would keep the county as a higher up priority.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) invites interested persons to attend Informational Open Houses for the MD 4 – Thomas Johnson Bridge Planning Study. The project involves a study of transportation improvements along MD 4 from MD 2 in Calvert County to MD 235 in St. Mary’s County.

WHAT: The Open House will acquaint the public with the need for the project and the progress of the study to date. Display areas will be set up explaining the Purpose and Need for the project, the Planning and Highway Development Process, Environmental Resources, Related Projects, and Next Steps. Project representatives will be available to discuss the project issues, answer questions, and record your comments. No formal presentation will be given. Feel free to arrive at any time and walk through at your own pace. Each Open House will have the same information and format.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Dowell Elementary School – Gymnasium
12680 H.G. Trueman Road, Lusby, MD 20657

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Town Creek Elementary School – Cafeteria
45805 Dent Drive, Lexington Park, MD 20653

CONTACT: Ms. Felicia Alexander, Project Manager
410-545-8511 or toll-free 1-800-548-5026
Maryland Relay Service for Impaired Hearing or Speech can be reached at 1-800-735-2258.

Anyone needing special assistance to participate, please contact the Project Manager by September 25, 2007.

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