- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Flood damage will continue flustering commuters in southern Charles County for a couple of weeks and, for those who frequent Budds Creek Road, well beyond.
Ferocious rainstorms courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee dropped more than a foot of rain in portions of southern Charles last week, and in the process tripled the width of Allens Fresh stream beneath its Budds Creek Road crossing and left two gaping sinkholes along southbound U.S. 301 near its intersection with Route 6.
A bridge runs Budds Creek Road over Allens Fresh, which before the storms was about 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep at the intersection, State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said.
But floodwaters were “so intense and strong” that they eroded the stream’s bank to the point that it now spans 90 feet across, leaving the bridge perilous for traffic and in need of a replacement. Underwater divers inspected the area over the weekend and determined the level of erosion.
“So much earth moved on either side of the bridge, so we’re going to have to replace that structure,” Buck said.
The stream’s depth measured about 12 feet Tuesday afternoon but will eventually return to normal, Buck said.
The administration plans to install a temporary bridge, with one lane in both directions, adjacent to the current span, but that will take “weeks, not days,” Buck said. Until then, the crossing will remain closed to traffic.
Removing the current 40-foot bridge, which dates to the 1930s, and building a permanent 100-foot replacement, with one lane and shoulder in each direction, will take much longer, “many, many months,” Buck said.
Neither cost estimates nor an exact timetable for when a new bridge might be built were available as of press time.
In the meantime, the administration has designated a detour connecting Budds Creek Road to U.S. 301 via Penns Hill Road and Route 6, “a reasonably long detour, but a pretty good one right now,” Buck said.
Buck also noted that even though the administration can only recommend state roads as detours, “clearly local people know the county roads they can use as well.” Bel Alton Newtown Road seems to be a popular detour, he added.
Traffic is open along U.S. 301 south but will continue to move slowly through La Plata for the next week and a half to two weeks, Buck said. Thus far, work on the two sinkholes has caused rush hour backups of roughly three miles, he added.
Road crews are working to repair the northern sinkhole, which should be finished by Friday but still had the right lane of the southbound side blocked Tuesday afternoon.
The “massive” sinkhole to the south of the Route 6 intersection is “more complex” and dangerous for workers, Buck said.
“It's literally 25 feet deep and 40 feet across,” he added.
Both of the southbound lanes remain closed near the southern sinkhole, but road crews have opened a single emergency lane in the highway median.
The emergency lane was originally 12 feet wide, but after Monday night, when drivers were speeding by at speeds approaching 70 mph, workers reduced it to 11 feet “just to try to slow people down, and it helped,” Buck said. “It was really dangerous down there [Monday] night.”