A wider Humpback bridge is panned by councils
Apr. 27, 2005
Sara Stefanini
Staff Writer

Gazette file photo

Widening the Humpback bridge is being proposed.

Despite its age, tight corners and one-lane passage, Gaithersburg and Washington Grove council members and residents would rather repair the existing one-lane "Humpback Bridge" than replace it with a larger bridge, they said at a Monday night meeting.

But repairing the 50-year-old East Deer Park Drive bridge, which has been give a life expectancy of five years, would only lengthen its life by 10 to 15 years, said Jeri Cauthorn, senior transportation planner for the county.

"There is a limit to how many times you can repair a bridge before it won't take any more repair," she said.

CSX Corp., which owns the train tracks under the bridge, would have to agree to any plans to repair the bridge.

Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney A. Katz said approaching CSX about repairing the Humpback Bridge is worth a try.

"I just think [rehabilitating the bridge] would be the sensible thing to do," Katz said.

Although Cauthorn's team has discarded two of the three options they presented for replacing the bridge -- leaving the option to build a two- or three-lane bridge in the same location -- council members and residents worry about the impact it would have on its surrounding communities.

"I'm basically against it," said City Councilman Stanley Alster. "That's a neighborhood ... and the idea of a two-lane bridge makes me shudder."

In her presentation, Cauthorn said the new bridge, equipped with sidewalks, would "unite and complement" communities by making it easier and safer for people to walk across.

It would also accommodate the projected traffic growth, she said. According to the team's traffic study, the number of cars crossing the bridge will go from 6,300 per day to 17,500 in the next 20 years.

East Deer Park Drive and Washington Grove residents answered, however, that the one-lane bridge is an effective "traffic-calming device," and Washington Grove Mayor John Compton added that the road is "self-limiting," and will therefore limit the traffic growth.

Phase two of the project, in which the preliminary designing begins, has already been funded.

The project team will meet will meet May 10 to discuss other possibilities for the new bridge, such as moving it north or south and narrowing it to two lanes instead of three.

Cauthorn said the county Department of Public Works and Transportation will probably send its recommendation to the county Planning Board in June, which will then send it on to the County Council.