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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter3:03 pmSep 8, 20200

Costs keep climbing at the Harford Road Bridge

Originally slated to cost $20 million to design and build, this northeast Baltimore project has increased to more than $25 million

Above: The framework for the Harford Road Bridge was completed last month. (Baltimore DOT)

As the steel girders and deck rise above Herring Run, the new Harford Road Bridge certainly isn’t getting cheaper.

Last week, the Board of Estimates approved $1 million for private construction inspectors at the site – the latest add-on to a project that, halfway to completion, is already millions of dollars over budget.

First was the lengthy redesign of the bridge by Whitman, Requardt & Associates, which more than doubled the $1.1 million design price.

Then came the matter of “excessive rock excavation” at the site. That sent $1,606,930 more to Technopref Industries, the French-American bridge builder that won the bridge contract.

Technopref picked up another $823,908 in June to divert the channel of Herring Run, which was flooding the construction site, endangering the stability of the bridge footings.

Tracking Costs

The Brew has been keeping track of costs at the bridge. So far, a project slated to cost $20 million to design and build has risen to more than $25 million.

And with 14-15 months worth of construction left, “there is always the potential for [more] EWOs,” says German Vigil, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

EWOs is cityspeak for “Extra Work Orders.” Originally, DOT budgeted $949,853 for such contingencies.

But like the waters of Herring Run, EWOs quickly swept over that amount. So DOT has tapped into a stream of construction and closeout reserves and shifted another $3.4 million to the project.

The outside inspectors, approved by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Council President Brandon M. Scott without comment last Wednesday, are being supplied from Rummel, Klepper & Kahl.

RK&K is one of the city’s top engineering consultants. In the last year alone, the Board of Estimates has awarded it more than $10 million of work. “DOT uses consultants to supplement its work force when needed and maintains supervision over these workers at all times,” Vigil explained.

The original 1911 Harford Road Bridge had badly deteriorated when this photo was taken, with its spandrel walls propped up by metal plates and ties. (Mark Reutter)

The Harford Road Bridge was badly deteriorated when this photo was taken in 2016. Its spandrel walls were propped up by metal plates and ties. (Mark Reutter)

20 Years in the Making

The original bridge over Herring Run was built in 1911. By the mid-1990s, the structure was held together by a patchwork of plates and braces.

With its arch barrel vaults badly deteriorated and its spandrel walls failing, it was too far gone for rehabilitation.

In 2001, Mayor Martin O’Malley promised a replacement bridge. Thirteen years later, residents of Lauraville, Arcadia and Mayfield were treated to a public show-and-tell and told by DOT that construction of a new bridge would start within months.

But the State Highway Administration found fault with aspects of the design, and it was back to the drawings boards for DOT and Whitman Requardt.

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The Harford Road Bridge is located in Mayfield-Lauraville section of northeast Baltimore.

Shift in Priorities

In the meantime, the Rawlings-Blake administration had decided on a higher priority – a Central Avenue Connector Bridge linking the new Harbor Point/Exelon Tower development with Harbor East.

Even as federal highway money was directed to the Connector project, the administration promised that a replacement Harford Road Bridge would get underway no later than fall 2016.

Instead, it turned out that money for the re-design hadn’t been allocated by the BOE. Between a funding shortage and approval delays by the SHA, the bridge design wasn’t completed until early 2018.

Technopref Industries, a subsidiary of French construction giant Demathieu Bard, beat out five competitors with a lower-than-expected bid of $18.99 million.

In July 2018, the BOE awarded the company the contract. The bridge was closed to traffic in November 2018, and the tear down of its aged structure got underway.

DOT expects the new bridge to be finished late next year and open for traffic by the start of 2022.

The new bridge will include dedicated bike lanes and ADA-compliant sidewalks separated by flex posts in both directions.

Herring Run Floods

The project also includes the reconstruction of the Herring Run Greenway Trail, which has been beset by several recent washouts.

In addition to the EWOs allocated for the new bridge, the Board of Estimates directed $412,000 in emergency repairs to the trail and to the nearby Father Hooper athletic fields in June.

The damaged Herring Run trail next to the Harford Road Bridge in June. (Baltimore Brew)

The flood-battered Herring Run Trail just south of the Harford Road Bridge in June. (Baltimore Brew)

• To reach this reporter: reuttermark@yahoo.com

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