Temporary bridge opens over U.S. 15 in Frederick -- Gazette.Net


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For veterinarian Dr. Michael Schaden of the Opossum Pike Veterinary Clinic, the replacement of Frederick’s Motter Avenue bridge has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Schaden, whose clinic sits adjacent to the bridge, said he has lost 30 percent of his land and was forced to install a chain-link fence around his parking lot to keep construction trucks from using it.

Worried that his business will suffer, Schaden said he thinks the state didn’t give him enough money for his land, so he is taking legal action.

He said the state condemned 25 percent of his land in January 2012, including the front parking lot. He received some money from the state, but would not disclose the amount.

“Over time, I think there will be an impact on our business,” he said. “A lot of our older clients are already hesitant to come here.”

Dave Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, which constructed the temporary bridge that opened Monday, said Schaden has been given $418,000 for his land, but financial issues have yet to be resolved. The state and Schaden are headed to court in October, he said.

Buck also said that when construction of the new bridge is completed, the state expects that it will be easier to get in and out of the clinic’s parking lot.

“Clearly, he is as close to the construction site as anyone,” Buck said. “Certainly, when construction is done, it should make access easier and help his business. But if there is anything we can do to make it easier on a day-to-day basis, he should let us know.”

Schaden, a former member of the Frederick County Board of Education, also said he is concerned about the safety of the temporary sidewalk bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists.

That bridge will remain in use until a replacement span is completed in 2014.

Schaden said he worries that the ongoing construction surrounding the bridge is unsafe for students who use it to get to and from nearby Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.

“There is still a lot of construction, and I worry about the kids walking there in the morning and afternoon,” he said. “They’re walking by an active construction site.”

But high school Principal Marlene Tarr said Tuesday that she has yet to hear of any concerns from parents.

“At this point, we have heard no complaints,” she said. “I’m sure if there is going to be concerns, we will begin to hear it.”

The pedestrian bridge is 10 feet wide, with a chain-link ceiling installed for safety, the SHAS said in a news release. A chain-link safety fence also will be installed along the pathway leading up to the bridge.

Bicyclists are asked to dismount and walk their bikes across the span, and arrows are installed directing people to the pathway leading to the pedestrian bridge, the release said.

“With this bridge so near schools and businesses, SHA considered pedestrian safety a top priority in planning this project,” SHA District 7 Engineer Dave Coyne said in the release.

Frederick Alderman Carol Krimm (D), who lives near the site, voiced concerns last year about whether the temporary pedestrian bridge would be safe for students at Gov. Thomas Johnson High.

Before construction of a new Motter Avenue bridge started last year, students used a pedestrian sidewalk on the bridge in the mornings and afternoons.

Krimm said she has seen the new temporary bridge and is confident it will be safe for all pedestrians.

“SHA is always concerned about safety,” she said.

To inform residents living near the bridge, Krimm has created a video with state highway officials discussing the project. The video was expected to be posted on the city website later this week.

“That’s my neighborhood,” she said. “I see it all the time.”

Work on the 56-year-old bridge started in the spring of last year and will be finished in the fall of 2014, SHA officials have said previously.

The new bridge will be wide enough to handle traffic on the current four lanes, but a continuous left-turn lane will be added to accommodate vehicles turning from Motter Avenue onto the entrance ramps to U.S. 15.

A new lane also will be added for traffic entering Motter Avenue from U.S. 15 northbound and proceeding north in the direction of Fort Detrick.

Permanent sidewalks will be added in both directions across the new bridge.

Crews on Monday also began installing concrete medians on Thomas Johnson Drive that will permanently prevent left turns near the Opossumtown Pike intersection, the release said.

The project is a partnership with the city of Frederick, with additional improvements planned on Opossumtown Pike and Motter Avenue, including new sidewalks and traffic signals, the construction of retaining walls in front of the Rose Hill Plaza and Antietam Village Centers on Opossumtown Pike, storm-drain improvements and replacement of the island and ramp on southbound U.S. 15.

The total cost of the project is $15 million, $12.3 million of which is for construction, said Heather Keels, the SHA’s community liaison. The remaining $2.7 million will be used for other preliminary functions for planning projects, such as design and right-of-way acquisition.

The city’s portion of the project totals $2.7 million, and an additional $500,000 is coming from Frederick County government. The state and federal government’s portion is $12 million.

The bridge has been slated for replacement for several years. It has been listed as one of Maryland’s top structurally deficient bridges on the SHA’s website.

The upgrades are designed to improve road safety and ease traffic congestion along Opossumtown Pike, Motter Avenue and U.S. 15.

sgreenfield@gazette.net