Two more bridges on the $2.4 billion Intercounty Connector have cracks in them, state inspectors have found.
The bridges, one that extends the highway over Route 29 in Briggs Chaney and the other a ramp that stretches over the same road, have hairline cracks that need to be repaired, according to state officials.
The news comes after inspectors found similar cracks in three other bridges in the first segment of the highway earlier this year. The state ordered a highwaywide inspection, and more cracks were found in the newest section of the road that stretches from U.S. 29 to Interstate 95 and opened in November.
State officials say the two different designers for the road segments made similar miscalculations in how much steel to include in concrete "pier caps" in the bridges.
But the bridges are still safe to drive on, officials say.
"This is really about making sure these bridges have the long-term lifespan and durability they were supposed to have," said ICC spokesman Ray Feldmann. "It's not a safety issue; it's a long-term durability issue."
Feldmann said he could not speculate on whether the cracks could become a safety issue later.
About 20,000 cars per day were expected to take the ICC over Route 29 this summer, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.
The designer for the two cracked Route 29 bridges
is disputing the state's findings and has hired a third-party consultant to decide who's right.
"We're cooperating with the state, responding to their minor questions about ICC Contract C, which have largely been resolved. We expect the final review to confirm the design is sound," said Molly Wagner, a spokeswoman for Dewberry, the firm that designed the Route 29 bridges.
The third-party review was supposed to be completed in June, according to a state report. It's not clear what's holding it up, Feldmann said.
Feldmann said it's not unusual for the state to disagree with its contractors.
"With a huge, $2.4 billion project that is 19 miles long, sometimes there's going to be two people looking at the same data and interpreting it differently," he said.
Unlike Dewberry, the designer for the bridges in Contract A immediately took responsibility for the cracks and is almost finished repairing them, Feldmann said.
The contractors will have to pay for the fixes in both cases.
"We have said from the outset that this would not cost state taxpayers a nickle," Feldmann said.