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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
The new Gold Mine Road bridge opened on Aug. 29, fulfilling the promise made by county officials that it would open prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
At a brief ceremony, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D), U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Dist. 3) and the county’s Department of Transportation director Al Roshdieh led the dedication and cut the ribbon, officially opening the bridge to traffic.
“It’s amazing because it’s been less than a year to get this done,” Elrich said. “It’s just a fantastic improvement — getting rid of flooding, having a bridge that is safe to cross, creating a condition where people don’t have to worry about who might be coming around that turn and how fast while you are trying to get over the bridge.”
He added: “It’s an enormous safety improvement, including pedestrian and bicycle improvements. They went over and beyond just replacing the bridge — they actually improved all of the aspects of transportation that we like to see in a project.”
Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department President Johnie Roth and Capt. Brendan Bonita said they are pleased with the new bridge design and hopeful it will eliminate flooded roadways, water rescues and vehicle collisions.
Brookeville resident Jon Morrison, a member of the county’s Department of Transportation Bike Advocacy Committee and the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, rode his bike over the bridge — the first “unofficial” vehicle to cross the structure.
“It’s a significant safety improvement and improves connectivity,” he said. “We are still looking for more connectivity, but every little incremental bit helps. The bridge looks great and was well worth the wait.”
Sarbanes called the project a “perfect example” of the community stepping up and expressing what its needs and priorities are, and a partnership between the federal delegation and Montgomery County to move the project forward.
“It seems like the world has gone crazy a lot of the time, but if you take an aerial view and you zone in coming closer and closer, and you look at what is happening right here, right now with cutting this ribbon and getting this road open, this is the connective tissue that keeps the country strong,” he said. “It’s communities working with local government, working with state and federal government to make sure we are doing things to improve the quality of lives of people who live in these communities.”
The new two-lane bridge over the Hawlings River replaces a one-way bridge, built in 1958.
Among the issues cited in a bridge inspection report from earlier this decade were the original bridge’s vulnerability to frequent flooding, inadequate sight distance approaching the single-lane bridge and outdated bridge railings for vehicle crash safety.
The new higher elevation bridge is 33 feet wide and has two 11-foot-wide lanes to handle traffic simultaneously in each direction.
The new design also alleviates conditions that led to bridge flooding several times a year following heavy rains.
The new bridge includes an eight-foot-wide path designed to improve pedestrian and bicycling safety.
The $3.5 million bridge project was supported by funds from the Federal Highway Administration and the county.
The construction on Gold Mine Road — which provides a connection from Georgia Avenue (Route 97) north of Olney to New Hampshire Avenue (Route 650) — required the closure of the road at the bridge location since October.
The road closure interrupted traffic from the intersection at Chandlee Mill and Gold Mine roads. Some additional work around the site will continue into the fall.
The bridge officially opened to traffic following the
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