Sitting at the bottom of a hill and roughly half a mile from Emmitsburg’s Town Square, a small two-lane bridge spans Flat Run Creek.
The bridge is showing some wear, including cracks. According to town officials, the bridge hasn’t been worked on since it was built, which was in 1927, according to state records.
But the overall condition of the bridge is not what officials are most concerned about — it’s what happens when it rains.
Town Manager Cathy Willets said Wednesday that whenever it rains in that area, the road floods, including at the entrance and exit of Northgate, a subdivision at the northern end of town.
“It floods to the point where people in Northgate could potentially be trapped with no access in or out of that development,” Willets said. “That’s the main reason we’re looking at this, is for the safety and welfare of our citizens.”
Emmitsburg’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved sending a letter this week to Gregory Slater, administrator of the state’s Department of Transportation, along with state Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) and delegates Dan Cox (R-District 4), Barrie Ciliberti (R-District 4) and Jesse Pippy (R-District 4).
Mayor Don Briggs said Wednesday that he talked to state officials five or six years ago about the bridge, including flooding issues near the Northgate development. He said they responded at the time that it wasn’t in their current “queue” of priorities for bridge repairs.
He and Willets said that if the area floods, a primary concern is that emergency vehicles won’t be able to get in and out of Northgate.
“We’re just trying to see if we can take another swing at it,” Briggs said of getting state officials to repair the bridge.
Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said the bridge is one of roughly 2,500 bridges the state maintains.
Bridges receive a score from two to nine — two being a bridge in “poor” condition that would probably be closed, and nine being a brand-new bridge, Gischlar said.
Currently, according to the letter sent to state officials, the bridge is in “fair” condition — Gischlar said that’s roughly five out of nine on the state scale.
The SHA has a “vigorous” bridge repair program that is required to inspect every bridge every two years, he added. Officials will look at the bridge’s age, along with parts of the structure to determine its overall condition.
Some bridges, like the one on North Seton Avenue over Flat Run Creek, would probably need to be raised if they were reconstructed, to allow more water to pass underneath, Gischlar said. That would also require the bridge to be lengthened due to structural and environmental standards, he said.
A few residents of the Northgate subdivision said the entrance and exit does flood in heavy rain. That included Mike Ryder, who has lived in the area for 21 years.
Ryder said it takes several inches of rain for the entrance to flood, but he was concerned about access for emergency vehicles if such an event occurs.
“It depends on how much rain falls. ... It could happen next week if a hurricane dropped several inches of rain, or something like that,” he said.
But David Becker, who also lives in the subdivision, disagreed. He drives a truck, but believes the area has flooded badly only twice: in 1992 and 1995.
“I walk it and drive it all the time,” Becker said outside his home Wednesday. “It seems fine.”
Gischlar said that looking ahead, officials can do some remedial maintenance on the bridge.
The bridge also reflects a time when less traffic traveled through the county and lower structures were needed, he added.
“When those bridges were built, Frederick County was really rural,” Gischlar said. “Now, those areas have changed ... and we would likely need to build it a little higher.”