The bridge that carries Md. 355 over the Monocacy River was closed Wednesday after a garbage truck being towed for repairs struck the superstructure, officials say.
A Frederick County sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the bridge Wednesday afternoon after a garbage truck struck the overhead support beams, according to the sheriff’s office and Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. The bridge was closed in both directions until engineers could further assess the damage, Gischlar said.
The bridge would remain closed for "up to 60 days," according to an estimate released via email from the State Highway Administration on Thursday morning.
"The damaged sections of the bridge will need to be removed and new steel beams fabricated, installed and inspected before the bridge can reopen,” said John Concannon, an engineer with the SHA. “As the holidays approach, traffic will increase near the malls, so MDOT SHA is expediting repairs to the bridge and will open it as soon as possible.”
The steel truss bridge, originally constructed in 1930 and upgraded in 1980, will be repaired after the engineers finish their assessments, Gischlar said.
“There is some damage to the beams,” Gischlar said.
The garbage truck became disabled sometime before the crash and was being towed back to a company facility for repairs when the crash occurred, said Lisa Kardell, the director of public affairs for Waste Management, Inc.
"Our truck was being towed by Morton's Towing [& Recovery] out of Clarksburg at the time, so it was a tow truck driver's accident,” Kardell said Thursday morning. “It wasn't our driver who caused the crash … Safety is a top priority for the company and our drivers do a great job out in the community every day.”
An employee answering calls at Morton's Towing & Recovery deferred comment to David Morton when contacted by a Frederick News-Post reporter earlier Thursday. An email to David Morton was not immediately returned as of just before 10 a.m. Thursday.
Maj. Tim Clarke, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, confirmed on Thursday that no one was injured and the crash involved property damage only.
Mark Franceschina said he was driving north on Md. 355 from Urbana into Frederick when he noticed traffic coming to a stop near the bridge around 11:55 a.m. Wednesday.
“I saw the aftermath. I was there maybe 10, 20 minutes later because a tow truck was already there, and, speaking as a former structural engineer, it looked pretty serious,” Franceschina said, explaining that at least one of the steel tresses over the bridge appeared to be completely severed.
Thankfully, rerouting traffic around the bridge onto Interstate 270 was an easy enough solution for the immediate future, Gischlar said. But commuters should still plan for a longer drive, given that the bridge would likely remain closed at least through Wednesday afternoon.
About 12,210 vehicles use the bridge every day in both directions, according to the State Highway Administration’s data. The bridge has a clearance of 14 feet, according to signs posted there.