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Community Fights Replacing Fort Avenue Bridge

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Fort Avenue Bridge

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Plans to rebuild a deteriorating bridge in Baltimore are sparking widespread controversy.

Weijia Jiang explains why.

Baltimore leaders have no qualms about admitting the Fort Avenue CSX Bridge is in bad shape.  Many who cross over will tell you, it’s not just bad, it’s dangerous.

“You never know when it’s gonna collapse,” said Gary Makarovich, Locust Point resident.

“Underneath it appears to be deteriorating,” said Rick Ullman, Locust Point resident.

In fact, out of 300 bridges in town, the transportation department ranks it the second worst.

It scored lower in safety points than the Minnesota Bridge that collapsed.Yet it’s one of only three ways into Locust Point, a peninsula.

The city is now moving forward with plans to tear it down completely and build a new bridge.

“We have the money, we’re ready to go,” said Khalil Zaied, Baltimore Director of Transportation. “We have the design almost 90 percent complete. We need to get it done and get out.”

But for years, locals have been pushing to build in stages so at least part of the bridge could remain open at all times, namely because the local fire station is located on the west side of the bridge. Most people live on the east side.

Authorities promise a solution.

“Our plan is to put a company on the peninsula,” said Chief Jim Clack, Baltimore Fire Department.“We need to find a location to stay for 9 months, 12 months, whatever it takes.”

Then there’s the traffic concern and what detours mean for residents and businesses.

Restaurateur Mike Marx is certain he’ll lose customers.

“Locust Point is the heart, and there’s really one artery that leads to that heart. And that main artery is going to get snipped,” said Marx, Miguel’s owner.

Transportation authorities admit traffic will move slower but say a total tear down is the safest, fastest and cheapest way to go.

The Department of Transportation plans to start accepting bids for the project in May with hopes to break ground in June.

CSX is funding 75 percent of the $5 million project. The city is paying the rest.

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