Battle Over Dover Bridge Continues, Residents Won't Stand Down


CAROLINE Co., Md. - It's a fight which began more than 15 years ago, and the battle for the Dover Bridge is apparently far from over.

"This bridge has been falling apart for years," George Jackson of American Corner, Md. said.

There's no question the Dover bridge is old. 81 years, to be exact. Built in 1932, it serves as a connector between Caroline and Talbot Counties. But with its cracks and broken pieces of concrete, it's apparent to even the casual observer - the rusty bridge is showing its age.

"This bridge has caused a lot of heartache for a lot of people," Jackson said.

It's one of two swing span bridges in the state. Unlike a drawbridge that opens vertically, a swing bridge pivots horizontally to let boats pass through. Residents complain, when the locks get jammed, traffic gets held up for hours, posing a safety concern for emergency vehicles that need to cross.

"When the bridge locks up, we sit in traffic for at least one hour. One time it was 3.5 hours. The ambulance will have to drive 35 miles plus around with a patient aboard, and that has happened. This is senseless when we're only five minutes from the hospital," Jackson said.

The State Highway Administration admits they've had mechanical issues with the locks in the past, but they say they've had next to no issues in the last 10 years.

Other areas of concern include the narrow lanes and no shoulders.

"It does not meet federal guidelines for the width of the lanes. So that's been an increasing concern as we increase the amount of traffic that crosses that bridge on a daily basis. I would not ride my bike across that bridge because it's so precarious," Representative Addie Eckardt, (R), MD, District 37B said.

"It's so narrow, trucks knock their mirrors going across it. There's no safety margin up there. You've got to be perfect or you're going to hit somebody," Jackson said.

But the State Highway Administration says the bridge is not structurally deficient, but what they call functionally obsolete, meaning the lanes are narrower than current standards.

Still locals and some legislators say enough is enough, no more fixes, they want a new bridge. But the highway administration says a new bridge would take $40 - 50 million.

George says he won't stop this fight until the funding comes through. "Start the bridge now - get it built before this one goes down," he said.

The bridge was inspected last November and was deemed safe. Routine maintenance is done every month year round. The State Highway Administration released this statement on the matter: "We wouldn't have any road or bridge open if it was not safe."

The SHA says more than $4.4 million in funding for the design of a new bridge is underway. The project planning phase has been completed and the design phase is about 85% complete. The State Highway Administration owns and maintains 3,400 bridges in the state. 17 are drawbridges , two are swing span bridges. Last year alone, the Dover Bridge opened 210 times for boats.

In Annapolis, Delegate Eckardt is pushing for the next step.

"We need to make sure it gets sent to the consolidated capital plan with the Department of Transportation. And we have been assured by the Secretary of Transportation that they will be going back, revisiting that and getting that on a regular funding schedule," she said.

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