Inspectors have found hairline cracks in three newly built bridges that cross the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County, requiring work to reinforce them long-term, ICC officials said Tuesday.
The cracks were found last week on bridges that carry traffic on Georgia Avenue, Emory Lane and Needwood Road where those roads cross the ICC. The $2.56-billion toll highway’s western 7.2-mile segment opened in February between Interstate 270 and Georgia Avenue.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with the safety of people traveling over the bridges,” said Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for the ICC project. “These bridges have functioned absolutely fine since they opened in February. This is really about the long-term durability of the bridge structure.”
Feldmann said inspectors found the cracks in the “pier caps,” which connect the bridges’ supporting piers with the steel understructure. He said the problem appears to stem from a design flaw and that the contractor, a joint venture of firms called Intercounty Constructors, will pay to fix it.
“The contractor has already acknowledged this is their issue,” Feldmann said. “They’ve taken responsibillity and cooperated fully with us to do whatever needs to be done to fix this.”
Feldmann said work has begun to wrap cable around the piers to reinforce them and prevent the cracks from growing larger until a long-term solution is found “to make these bridges last their usual life.”
He said the cost of the repairs isn’t known because the scope of the work hasn’t been determined.
State inspectors found the cracks during routine inspections done as part of the Maryland State Highway Administration officially accepting the work as complete, Feldmann said. Though the first segment of the 18.8-mile highway has opened to traffic, work has continued on final touches that does not affect traffic, he said.
The full ICC is scheduled to be completed by early 2012.