Cardin optimistic about Solomons bridge replacement



In addition to the two lane bridge being a daily bottleneck for commuters, design deficiencies resulted in the placement of these steel support braces being installed many years ago to stabilize the concrete structures. While the SHA maintains that the bridge is safe, it still causes concern among many citizens. (somd.com file photo) In addition to the two lane bridge being a daily bottleneck for commuters, design deficiencies resulted in the placement of these steel support braces being installed many years ago to stabilize the concrete structures. While the SHA maintains that the bridge is safe, it still causes concern among many citizens. (somd.com file photo)

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (March 17, 2022)—Senior U.S. Senator Ben Cardin told the Southern Maryland Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly this month that there could be some hope for the long-stalled effort to construct a new Thomas Johnson Bridge span.

Cardin, speaking to the delegation March 4 during an on-line meeting, commented on the project after Del. Gerald "Jerry" Clark (R-Dist.29C) first broached the subject.

"Can you give us any optimistic reason to believe we're going to be able to replace the Thomas Johnson Bridge anytime in the near future?" Clark asked.

"We need to replace the Thomas Johnson Bridge," Cardin said, noting that a recently-passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed Congress could provide the funding for the project.

"We should be able to advance this project," Cardin said. "It's (the bridge) a challenge not only for the commuters, it's a safety issue."

Cardin mentioned the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, PA., which occurred in January, as a catastrophe that could not be allowed.

"We saw what happened in Pittsburgh," Cardin said. "We don't want to see a repeat of that anywhere else."

Cardin said the infrastructure bill, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which went into effect in November of last year, was passed with replacing or repairing bridges in mind.

Cardin said at the meeting two weeks ago that the key to getting funding for Maryland to spend on the bridge replacement project was passing an omnibus spending package, which Congress just did this week.

So far, just $1 million has been secured to make improvements to Route 4 leading up to the Thomas Johnson Bridge, including capacity improvements for the span itself.

Speaking March 4, Cardin was encouraged by the passage of the infrastructure bill for its potential to provide the money needed for the bridge.

"We are really optimistic the State of Maryland is going to have a great deal more flexibility," Cardin said. "I'm much more optimistic regarding this than I was before the passage of this bill."

For years the project has been a top priority for transportation improvements among local leaders but the state has repeatedly stated that there is not enough money in the state coffers to make the project happen.

Earlier this year, Maryland Secretary of Transportation Jim Ports told members of the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland that other projects, such as the construction of the new Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge, which connects Route 301 between Maryland and Virginia and costs $463 million, are proceeding but that ruled out the bridge spanning the Patuxent River. "With these numbers, it's just not possible," Ports said in January.

The state's Consolidated Transportation Plan for 2022 to 2027 was released earlier this year at $17.7 billion.

State officials have estimated that the new bridge would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to construct; they have also said the bridge is safe to traverse but obsolete.

The Thomas Johnson Bridge first opened to traffic in December of 1977 and was closed for several months in 1988 when cracks were discovered in its foundations, necessitating repairs being done to eight of the bridge's pylons.

For more local stories from the County Times newspapers, visit countytimes.somd.com or find a copy on local news stands.

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