The Severn River Bridge carries traffic along US 50, which serves as one of three main access routes to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Eastbound motorists regularly experienced backups extending several miles along the highway, and even further during the summer season as travelers cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toward beach destinations. In 2017, Governor Larry Hogan announced a multi-million dollar effort to address the severe congestion before the following Memorial Day holiday. KCI’s project engineer and inspection team provided construction oversight of a fast-track project to add a fourth eastbound lane along the highway’s crossing of the Severn River by connecting two parallel structures and reconfiguring the existing typical section.
Originally built in 1953, the 17-span Severn River bridge was widened in 1988 to increase capacity. It currently carries in excess of 145,000 vehicles in the summer, which is projected to increase by more than 30 percent over the next 25 years. It serves not only the Eastern Shore, but the city of Annapolis and the U.S. Naval Academy. Because of the high volumes of traffic and large number of stakeholders, partnering and maintenance of traffic (MOT) during construction were critical to the success of the accelerated project.
All the key players that needed to be part of the project were committed from day one. Everybody knew we had to work together and keep a partnering relationship going, and it made the project run smoothly.
Sherrita HillConstruction Project Engineer
Formal partnering began well before groundbreaking, with monthly meetings continuing throughout the project schedule. Engineers, contractors and oversight staff worked together to quickly address issues and concerns, developing unique solutions for existing median inlet elevations, finger dam modifications and a utility conflict in a bioretention pond. The team welcomed representatives from local homeowner associations and the U.S. Naval Academy, coordinating with the latter to ensure construction didn’t affect planned events on campus.
To meet the aggressive completion deadline, the contractor worked around the clock in shifts and approached the project from both the land and water. Marine activity and a massive temporary work platform that spanned the 2,856-foot length of the bridge facilitated work while minimizing lane closures. The state required that three lanes of traffic be maintained in both directions during peak times, but did allow the contractor to begin lane closures by 7pm at night, a full two hours earlier than most projects.
KCI MOT Inspector Doug Cooper oversaw set up of traffic control and monitored congestion each night. “My goal is to protect the public, the contractor and the state,” he said. “And in this case minimize backups to less than one mile or 15 minutes for any individual driver.” Although most projects only require an MOT inspector onsite periodically, Doug spent each night at the Severn River Bridge until at least 1am for the first few months before transitioning to random checks and reporting to document MOT and work zone setup.
The new eastbound lane was opened to traffic 38 days ahead of schedule, earning the contractor their full incentive and completing one of the state’s high priority improvements in time for summer travel. The project achieved all 16 of its partnering goals, including recognition by the Maryland Quality Initiative as the Partnering Project of the Year.