BROOKEVILLE—Local and state officials came together on Aug. 29 to unveil a new single-span bridge on Gold Mine Road in Brookeville.
The original bridge was built in the 1950s, according to Al Roshdieh, who serves as the director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). It had only a single lane and was prone to flooding.
“The new bridge will expand traffic flow from one to two lanes and will improve pedestrian and bicycle safety by including an eight-foot-wide shared path. The new design will alleviate conditions that led to bridge flooding several times a year following heavy rains,” Montgomery County wrote in a press release.
In his comments, Roshdieh thanked the Federal Highway Administration and Montgomery County for providing the $3.5 million dollars for the project.
“Like every other community, we have an aging infrastructure that needs attention, and the old bridge that was built in 1958 was a single lane, and I understand that every year, two or three times it was below the Hawlings River’s surface and that contributed to the accelerated deterioration of the bridge,” Roshdieh said. “I’m glad we were able to raise the bridge so (the community) doesn’t have to have closures when we have heavy rain.”
He went on to note that the new bridge is much safer than the old one, with bike lanes and a sidewalk that make it a shared-use roadway.
“From every standpoint of safety, this bridge is an example,” he said.
Other safety concerns on the old bridge included inadequate visibility and outdated railings for vehicle crash safety, according to the county.
The new bridge is about double the width of the old bridge, at 33 feet wide with two 11-foot-wide lanes. The bridge also has an 8-foot shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and noted how quickly the project came together.
He explained that the county had been working on improving the bridge since October 2018.
“It is amazing that this took less than a year to get this done, and it’s just a fantastic improvement,” he said. “Getting rid of the flooding, having a bridge that’s safe to cross, creating a condition where people don’t have to worry about cars coming around the turn too fast; it’s an enormous safety improvement.”
Elrich noted that the county did better than just replacing the bridge, but rather improved it along the way as well.
“I think this project was well worth what everybody had to go through to get to this point,” Elrich said. “It is such an improvement I remember this bridge from before, and it’s hard to imagine that this is standing where the old bridge was, but it really is dramatic.”
U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) was also in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
As a federal delegation, Sarbanes explained, they are always looking for ways that they can partner with local officials and communities.
“This is a perfect example of how the community steps up and expresses what its needs and priorities are, that’s listened to by the county executive and the local government,” he said. “They put together the package of resources, and this is a significant project; significant dollars were committed to this.”
He went on to say that completing the project in 10 months is a remarkable accomplishment for a local government.
“It seems like the world’s gone crazy a lot of the time,” Sarbanes said. “But if you take an aerial view and you zoom in and you come closer and closer and you look at what is happening right here and right now, cutting this ribbon and getting this road open, this is the connective tissue that keeps the country strong. Having communities working with local government, working with state and federal government to make sure we’re doing things to improve the quality of life of people who live in these communities.”
Jorge Sirgo who lives just up the road from the new bridge, went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony with his daughter. He noted that now that the bridge is finished, he and his family will not have to take detours that added to their daily commute time.
“It’s much more convenient to come through (the bridge), so it’s nice to see it done,” he said.
Two members of the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) were also in attendance. Brendan Bonita who serves as a captain for Sandy Spring VFD, explained that although the department was able to successfully adapt to closing the road, the improvements to the bridge will really help vehicles from getting stuck on what was originally a very narrow road.
“Having the bridge raised is definitely an increased benefit for us,” he said. “And the other thing is having it wider; we’re going to have cars pass each other versus having to fight each other. which is definitely an improvement.”
Johnie Roth, who serves as president of the Sandy Spring VFD, said that there was no loss of emergency services although the road has been closed. However, in the past, cars have managed to sandwich each other on the narrow road when two drivers decide to cross the bridge at the same time.
“Safety in this project is definitely a plus on this,” he said. “And how quickly they got it done is definitely a feather in the cap (for the county.)”