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Contact: Rachelle Daigneault, 410-629-6088
Berlin, Maryland - As visitors make the approach to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia by way of Beach Road they will notice that repairs are now underway on the Sheepshead Creek Bridge, one of two bridges that make up the only access to the southern end of Assateague Island. The National Park Service (NPS) has initiated repair to the 78 foot concrete slab bridge built in the late 1970's. The bridge provides access to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and the Toms Cove recreational beach managed by the National Park Service on Assateague Island. The rehab will be underway through March of 2013. Though deemed safe by the Federal Highway Administration, the bridge exhibits typical signs of concrete deterioration on the underside of the deck. There are also cracks on the top of the deck, and hairline cracks on the concrete bent piles associated with trestles under bridge.
While repair is underway there will be recurrent periods in which vehicle access across the bridge will be restricted to a single lane. This action will limit vibrations to setting concrete. Superintendent Trish Kicklighter reports that this repair is a temporary measure. "We anticipate securing the necessary funding to proceed with a complete reconstruction within seven years. At that time, the bridge will be raised by several feet to accommodate the effects of sea level rise and provide for continued visitor access to the island."
Though visitor inconvenience while driving to the island will be minimal, access under the bridge for boaters and paddlers will be completely blocked for the duration of the repair. A cofferdam will be constructed to keep water out of the work space under the bridge providing the dry area necessary to make repairs. Boaters should plan to pass beneath the adjacent Assateague Channel Bridge until the Sheepshead Creek Bridge repair is completed.
Most popular during the summer, Assateague Island is a year round destination. During the fall and winter the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge boasts great birding, fishing, hunting, and beachcombing. NPS Chief of Maintenance, Ish Ennis says, "Don't let the bridge work keep you from coming on out."