Baden Volunteer Fire Department Chief Wendy Baden said the long-term outage of a Brandywine bridge after it was damaged during September’s flooding has made it a struggle to reach some emergencies in the area.
“Just after the bridge went out, we had a chimney fire on the north side of the bridge, and we were definitely delayed in getting to that,” Baden said. “At this point, we have to rely on the [Marlboro Fire Station on Croom Road] to get to calls in that area.”
The 30-foot-long concrete bridge, located on Baden Naylor Road just north of its intersection with Molly Berry Road, has remained closed since it was damaged during the flooding that plagued the region following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Baden said even with the Marlboro station taking some calls north of the bridge, response times still are increased for those residents, thanks to a seven-mile trek from the Marlboro station to Baden Naylor Road.
“It’s quite a distance,” Baden said of calls taken by the other station. “When we are trying to respond to calls, we have to take Molly Berry Road [as a detour], which is a one-lane road, so driving a tanker down it is tricky.”
Tom Bahneman, 47, of Brandywine said he and other residents had trouble getting a response on the project’s status from the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation. He said he didn’t understand why a temporary fix couldn’t have been made until they start construction on the bridge.
“God forbid there were a real crisis,” Bahneman said. “I don’t know why they can’t just put up an abutment for the time being, at least to get farm equipment through. [Some of the detour roads] are too steep.”
Susan Hubbard, a DPWT spokeswoman, said in an email to The Gazette the process for getting the bridge replaced was slower than usual, because 75 percent of the $2.5 million project is being paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as a result of the approval of federal disaster relief for county public infrastructure because of the storms.
Hubbard said obtaining FEMA funding is a “lengthy process,” but her agency is “90 percent” finished with the design phase of the project, and plans to begin an approximately 18-month construction phase in late summer or early fall.
Hubbard said a sign near the bridge is intended to notify residents of the project, but there is no mention of the project or its status on the DPWT website.
County Councilman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) of Upper Marlboro, whose district includes Brandywine, said he did forward details on the project’s status from DPWT to residents who called his office, including the Greater Baden-Aquasco Citizens Association in March. Franklin said he also was concerned about the length of time it has taken to get to the construction phase.
“We really need to look at, in emergency situations, if we can shorten the bidding and procurement process somewhat,” Franklin said. “There are public safety concerns with [having a bridge out for this long].”
Baden, who did not have response time statistics immediately available, said response times have increased throughout the fire department’s service area as people navigate detours.
“Usually people going to Upper Marlboro use [Baden Naylor Road],” she said. “Now it has added traffic to Brandywine Road and [been] jamming that up, too.”