The bridge on Sea View Drive in Oakland Beach has been on the Public Works Department “to do” list for years. And for years, area residents have watched its deterioration and expected with “the next storm” it would go.
In fact, which is fitting, the bridge earned the name of the sign posted at its approach – “Danger Bridge.”
But, as the city started removal of the bridge, actually a 12-foot wide by 6-foot high culvert to be replaced with a similarly sized culvert – the structure looked sturdier than thought.
As a shovel broke away the asphalt covering to reveal the concrete culvert, DPW acting director David Picozzi surveyed the reinforced concrete and assessed the next step in the demolition process.
“You think these bridges are in worse shape until you try to take them apart,” he said.
There’s no way Danger Bridge is staying.
Picozzi was geared up to replace the culvert last fall, but thankfully that didn’t happen. Superstorm Sandy hit and had the city been rebuilding the culvert, the Brush Neck Cove side of the crossing would have been washed away. This year, he aims to beat the hurricanes and have the road opened again next month.
The trick is timing the work to the tides.
The culvert provides an inlet and outlet between Brush Neck Cove and a tidal pond. Picozzi said the city bought the five-section culvert replacement last year and that a 100-ton crane rented for the job will lift the sections into place, once the streambed has been leveled. He’s targeted that for low tide July 24 and, should that not work, low tide on July 31.
There’s no doubt, in Picozzi’s opinion, that the crossing needs attention. The eroded embankment tells part of the story. The rest is visible looking into the culvert.
“That concrete is so soft, you can break it with a three-pound hammer,” Picozzi said. “We’ve been milking it for a long time; we’ve been patching it. It’s done.”
When replaced, the crossing will have a new elegance by way of sidewalks and guardrails. The embankments will be buttressed with concrete blocks shaped to simulate stonewalls. The city will also extend rocks to the private property abutting the stream on the south. That will serve to protect the culvert and the property from being washed out during storms.
Picozzi said the plan is tear off the deck of the existing culvert and support the two walls with an iron beam while the bed for the culvert is prepared. The north wall may be left in place to give added support to the new culvert, depending on its condition. All the work is done by the city with the city’s general fund, with the exception of elements to beautify the structure; that will come from Community Development Block Grants for Oakland Beach. City costs are put at $32,375 for the culvert, $8,000 for the crane and about $5,000 for materials.
As for other city bridges needing replacement, Picozzi identified the Mill Cove Bridge for Tidewater Drive. That is a substantially larger project, which was estimated to cost $1.2 million. The city had planned to replace the bridge as part of extending sewers to Riverview, but the sewer project was placed on hold years ago.
Picozzi said the bridge is regularly inspected. The weight limit was reduced some years ago as a precautionary measure. At this time, there is no plan to replace the bridge.
As for “Danger Bridge,” Picozzi said it’s been on his radar for ages, thanks to the friendly reminders of Councilwoman Donna Travis.
“I promised that that bridge would be done before I retire,” he said.