BY ALEX HOLT
For the past six months, one of Takoma Park’s busiest bridges has been closed for repairs. But once the State Highway Administration’s construction crews finish replacing the deck of the New Hampshire Avenue Bridge next spring, it’ll be the Carroll Avenue’s Sligo Creek Bridge’s turn to get a makeover.
The Carroll Avenue bridge was built 81 years ago and while its eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places means the SHA will try to maintain its historic appearance, the bridge is very much in need of repairs. It’s been found structurally deficient in recent inspections and the bridge deck surface will need to be entirely replaced.
“We’ll need to replace everything above the concrete arches,” said Maurice Agostino, the SHA’s project manager for the bridge.
Although the project has been in discussion since 2009, construction on the bridge won’t actually start until 2015, when the bridge will close for a year. The extended time frame is required partly because the SHA needs time to build a temporary pedestrian bridge. But it’s also because closing both the New Hampshire and Carroll Avenue bridges at the same time would have placed too much of a strain on traffic.
Major traffic effects
“It would cause severe traffic problems in this very small city with its very small streets,” said Takoma Park City Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen, who represents Ward 3, one of the three city wards directly affected by the construction. The others are Ward 2, represented by Councilmember Tim Male and Ward 4, represented by Councilmember Jarrett Smith.
Both Daniels-Cohen and Councilmember Tim Male expect the bridge’s closure to have major effects on traffic for constituents in their respective wards. In fact, Daniels-Cohen said those effects could be summed up with one word.
“Yikes,” Daniels-Cohen said. “People over here are going to have a hard time.”
Male wasn’t too much more optimistic about how it would affect his ward. He noted that during the New Hampshire Avenue Bridge’s closure, there was an increase in people trying to take shortcuts.
Disruptions and detours
“People used their iPhones to take the shortest route so that people, at least initially, cut through neighborhoods,” he said. “There’s going to be major disruption.”
The SHA’s website says that drivers using MD-195 north or south of the bridge will be directed to a 1 1/4 –mile long detour using Flower Avenue, Maplewood Avenue, Maple Avenue and MD-410.
Male said there had been concerns about the route the detour will take but that they have been resolved.
“There was a big fuss around whether the detour route would literally run through the hospital property,” Male said. “My understanding is that those questions have been resolved. The traffic will be on one route going on Maple and Maplewood, taking away a portion of the road closure on Sligo Creek Parkway so the cars can zig-zag a bit and get up Carroll Avenue.”
Agostino said the SHA has been working with the city government since the project was initiated. The SHA briefed the city council last January and briefed the public at a public meeting last month.
“We’re continuing to work with the city on the project,” Agostino said. He also said the SHA would work closely with the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission during the project.
Daniels-Cohen said it would be extremely important for city government and the SHA to work together on the bridge repairs and have good communication while doing so.
“We should have partnership,” Daniels-Cohen said. “Communication and partnership, with the city and with the council. We’ve got a city council that’s elected but we’ve got a staff that’s hired that works hard for their money. And it needs to be a real partnership between the three of us.”
Agostino said the SHA has kept the public informed about the project and will continue to do as it moves closer to construction.
And as Daniels-Cohen said, despite the inconvenience, residents will be able to cope with the closure. “We’ll deal with it,” she said. “I mean it’s called progress. You just have to be positive about it and know there’ll be a beginning and an end to the construction and then it will be better for all of us once it’s finished.”