September 25, 2018
Community
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  • The section of West Benfield Road between Pixie Drive and Severnside Drive could be closed to traffic for four to five months.
    Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Works
    The section of West Benfield Road between Pixie Drive and Severnside Drive could be closed to traffic for four to five months.
  • Properties on Boxelder Court, Old Orchard Circle, Pixie Drive and Severnside Drive are being inspected in case damage results from pile-driving for the culvert.
    Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Works
    Properties on Boxelder Court, Old Orchard Circle, Pixie Drive and Severnside Drive are being inspected in case damage results from pile-driving for the culvert.
  • Built in 1980, the 20-foot-high dam is an earthen embankment created as a stormwater management pond for Shipley’s Choice.
    Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Works
    Built in 1980, the 20-foot-high dam is an earthen embankment created as a stormwater management pond for Shipley’s Choice.

Shipley’s Choice Dam Removal Will Affect Much Of Severna Park

Zach Sparks
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March 6, 2018

When a project to replace a culvert and remove the Shipley’s Choice dam gets underway, likely this June, a portion of West Benfield Road could be closed for four to five months.

In 2006, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) deemed the dam unsafe due to seepage and settlement issues. Built in 1980, the 20-foot-high dam is an earthen embankment that serves as a stormwater management pond for Shipley’s Choice.

Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW) spokesman Matt Diehl called the dam’s removal a safety issue, an assessment shared by Sheri Lott, an engineer manager for DPW’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program.

“Even if we weren’t taking the dam out because of a found soft spot, we would be looking at modifying what we call a best management practice (BMP) because it is so outdated and ineffective,” Lott said.

The $5.4 million project is split into two phases: culvert replacement and dam removal. Baltimore Gas and Electric, Comcast and Verizon are relocating overhead lines throughout early March. DPW expects to assign the construction contract by May. By June 2018, the county could start replacing the 66-inch culvert pipe that sits underneath West Benfield Road. For that work to be completed, West Benfield Road will be closed between Pixie Drive and Severnside Drive.

Because of the age of the culvert and because hydraulic analysis showed slight increases in water surface elevation, MDE required DPW to change its design from a 25-year culvert to a larger, 50-year culvert.

“We are putting a concrete culvert in its place, so it will have a much longer life cycle,” Lott said. “And even if there is additional building that’s above it, the capacity is large enough that it should never have to be replaced in these person’s lifetimes, so it is very much a permanent fix.”

The second phase includes the removal of dam embankment and rehabilitation of the Bear Branch stream segment. This phase is expected to begin in early 2019 and finish by late summer 2019. The goal, according to Lott, is to restore the stream to its natural condition.

While the project addresses a safety issue, the Shipley’s Choice Community Association is worried about traffic being diverted through its community south of Benfield Boulevard.

“We have had no success or input from any of the county departments over the major concern of construction traffic, which they can control but have sometimes been slow to address,” said Jim Guilfoyle, president of the Shipley’s Choice Community Association (SCCA).

Lott and Diehl said the county will instruct truck drivers to refrain from using smaller neighborhoods roads. Trucks will not block cars from reaching homes on West Benfield.

Because Crain West is a dead-end community, those residents do not worry about through traffic, although they do sympathize with Shipley’s Choice. “Our biggest concern was the original plans called for clearing the whole bottom of that valley, 185 feet wide, to create a floodplain,” said Art Timmons, a Crain West resident and the Greater Severna Park Council’s vice president for public affairs. “That is what we opposed. The plans now are to repair both ends on the valley and see how the stream fairs after that work is done.”

Lott added that, “There are no trees where the dam is and we’ll be putting many more trees in than we actually take out as part of the temporary construction aspect.”

In addition to traffic, John Norville, a director on the SCCA board, cited concerns about drivers speeding through residential areas, putting residents and pedestrians at harm, and construction noise.

“Another concern is potential damage from thundering pile drivers constructing the replacement culvert, [which] could damage nearby houses,” said Norville.

The contractor Seismic Surveys performed pre-construction surveys of homes within 500 feet of the culvert. The new culvert will be supported by concrete piles, and pile-driving will create vibrations. Seismic Surveys will compare surveys from before and after construction to verify no damage occurred.

Lott said DPW is community conscious and wants to complete most of the construction during the summer, without impacting school bus traffic.

“It is an inconvenience, I recognize that,” Lott said. “It’s going to be noisy during the day, during construction hours. There’s no way around it. But it’s something that has to be done to maintain the integrity of our roads, because the culvert is well beyond its life cycle and the dam needs to come out for safety reasons.”

Updates will be posted to the Public Works page at www.aacounty.org. Anyone with questions or concerns can contact project manager Larry Mathena at 410-222-7908.


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