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JFX trouble from storm damage: Cracked pillar with exposed rebar

Exposed rebar and a large tree pushed against the base will capture more storm debris
Exposed rebar and a large tree pushed against the base will capture more storm debris
Karene Smith, Justin Berk

No doubt that this has been a very stormy year in Baltimore. We had nearly double our normal snowfall, the coldest March temperature on record, and the heavy spring rains that helped lead to the landslide off of Charles St. on April 30th (see video here) But what I have to show here goes beyond recent weather and should be filed under the aging and neglected infrastructure of our cities.

Exposed rebar and large tree braced along the Jones Falls
Karene Smith

The recent closing of I-495 in Delaware because of tilted pillars has 90,000 cars a day dealing with alternative routes, but better safe emergency construction gets done, right?

With that said, here is a look at a cracked pillar supporting the elevated span of I-83 in Baltimore City, known locally as the Jones Falls Expressway, or JFX. This area of Meadow Mill is often subjected to flooding and lots of debris flowing downsteam, which apparently has taken its toll.

Karene Smith sent me the following message through my Facebook page along with these photos in the slide show. She was hoping I could help get the attention of someone who can address this, and hope this helps.

According to Karene:

I went to the first meeting of the Balto Gem Cutters Guild at Meadow Mill, which flooded last month in the great deluge. The building has been repaired. The JFX....no. The tree that is pushing against this support is as large as the JFX support, if not larger around. I'm actually worried about traveling over that section now.

As you can see, there is exposed rebar, but more worrying to me, are the many cracks that run the length of the support.

An also worrying is the fact that any runoff will now use that huge tree as lever. It's firmly on the land and juts past the support.

I am not a structural engineer. I’m just a meteorologist who shared some calculus and physics classes with some of those engineers. So as a layman, I have to say I agree with the concern. It may just be cosmetic, but this looks like it needs to be addressed.

I am trying to be cautious with my delivery, but I do hope that via my large following this can get the attention of someone that is in charge to take a closer look at this and decide how to best handle this. If anything, I would hope to have a follow up about the integrity of this and the other columns in this span. It does appear that more debris will lead to more stress, but the visible fracturing is bad enough.

If this does lead to action and emergency repair, I surely hope that it is seen with appreciation and Karene should get credit for taking the initiative to try and get the word out.

Also keep up to date via my Social Media Networks:

Facebook: Justin Berk, Meteorologist

Twitter @JustinWeather

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