At 101, the Hanover Street Bridge is showing its age
Photos and text by Karl Merton Ferron
Sunrise casts a warm hue on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge (better known as the Hanover Street Bridge), which sleeplessly links downtown Baltimore and Port Covington with Cherry Hill, Brooklyn, and Curtis Bay. The Strobel Steel Construction Company of Chicago constructed the double leaf Rall type bascule in 1916, replacing a dilapidated long bridge, built in 1856 by Richard Cromwell. Very few Rall type spans remain in operation, and a full century of daily use has taken its toll on the 2,290-foot-long drawbridge. Heavy trucks now rumble over filled-in potholes that resemble scabs on an injured leg. The tractor trailers and dump trucks share five lanes with a steady stream of vehicular traffic, exposing rebar and shredding steel grates on the double-leaf span. While the city under then-mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake approved a $1 million, four-year contract with a consultant, it is not known what will become of the south Baltimore icon.
Daily life on the bridge has its share of beautiful moments, mixed with dangerous experiences. Local police and fire/rescue responded one afternoon to a motor vehicle crash when one vehicle hit the rear end of another, while city repair crews responded the following morning, welding steel in a hopscotched patchwork of keeping the spans safe for vehicles to travel across. Standing atop the drawbridge can feel like riding a small boat being tossed about in waves, as trucks and buses rumble across, shaking the leaf spans about. Until the city finds a viable path to repair or replace the aging bridge, work crews will regularly return, applying small repairs on the 101-year-old bridge, like physicians applying bandages on traumatic wounds.