On Monday morning, more than a handful of employees for Milani Construction continued work on a bridge replacement project on a stretch of road in Emmitsburg used by more than 5,000 motorists daily.
The project, which began in October 2016, had a original completion date of summer 2018, according to a news release from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA).
But now, officials hope the work on Md. 140 — which includes the bridge, sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure — is completed by the end of the year.
The project, located on the eastern end of town near the Jubilee Foods supermarket, has been a main topic of interest for Emmitsburg residents and officials during the past few years. Commissioner Tim O’Donnell was, at times, frank when local SHA officials provided an update on the project at a town meeting earlier this month.
“This has been a disaster for our community in many ways,” O’Donnell said. “We have gotten such horrible feedback about this ... it’s been a burden on our community that I feel wasn’t necessary.”
After the meeting, O’Donnell said that although bad weather and other factors have delayed the project, the timeframe has been discouraging.
“It brings a lot of negative attention,” he said. “It’s hard to be constantly told the delivery date is being pushed back ... I’m no expert on bridges, but common sense would seem to dictate the amount of time this is taking is excessive.”
John Concannon, the district engineer for SHA District 7, which includes Frederick County, said his office “shares the frustration” with residents and officials at the delays.
He said last year’s record rainfall, backorders and changes to material orders for the project and overall staffing challenges for Milani are some reasons for the multiple delays.
He added there are possible monetary penalties Milani could face because of the delay after the project is completed. But he didn’t know specifically what those were, and Concannon could not be reached for comment via email or phone Monday.
A representative for SHA and Milani Construction at the site Monday morning deferred comment to spokespeople. A representative for Milani did not respond to an email for comment Monday.
Milani, a construction company based in Washington, D.C., is also the contractor working on the Monocacy Boulevard Bridge replacement in Frederick, another project that has been delayed. According to their website, the Emmitsburg bridge project was scheduled to be completed in Fall 2018.
The brick replacement bridge has been built, but traffic is only open to two lanes instead of four, as the northern two lanes have not been paved. According to the project page on the SHA’s website, that work is scheduled to begin later this month or in early November.
Gabe Baker, a Jubilee Foods employee, lives close to the bridge being replaced. He said he’s heard multiple reasons for why there have been delays: multiple foremen have led the project, the historic rain last year and workers hit an unanticipated water pipe shortly after the project start date.
Amanda Kolasa, store manager of the Dollar General west of the bridge, said she’s heard the same. But both said it hasn’t disrupted business.
Kolasa believes there have been multiple “internal issues” with Milani, specifically with the number of supervisors who have led the project since its start.
One of the main issues for her store, she said, occurred around last summer when customers were often forced to sit in the store’s parking lot for almost 15 minutes before being able to pull out.
Flagging operations, however, have mostly solved that problem, Kolasa said.
She said Milani’s employees have always been respectful, but that their struggles elsewhere — including in Frederick — have hurt the company’s reputation regarding construction projects.
“We joke about it in town. Because if we have a major job, we’re not calling Milani,” Kolasa said.