Delaware Department of Transportation officials have brought in an army of experts to expedite reopening the I-495 bridge in Wilmington, which could be completed by later this year or early next year, according to the Delaware Secretary of Transportation.
The bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware was closed indefinitely last week after officials discovered four 50-foot columns began tilting. Officials suspected the issue may have been caused by the dumping of a large mound of dirt next to the bridge, according to a report from The Associated Press .
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- Del. Closes I-495 bridge because of column tilt
Delaware Secretary of Transportation Shailen Bhatt wanted to assure daily commuters that his administration is working diligently to repair the bridge.
“The expertise, the equipment and the material to get this bridge reopened is on its way to Delaware right now,” Bhatt said. “We have literally hit the ground running and are committed to get this bridge reopened.”
Shailen said the bridge’s southbound lanes could be open as soon as Labor Day. Northbound lanes could be opened several weeks later, according to a release from the department.
The first phase of construction to reopen the bridge is estimated to cost $20 million, the release states. From the release:
The plan to reopen the bridge to traffic calls for the construction of new concrete-filled shafts down to bedrock beneath the columns that have tilted out of alignment. These shafts will create a stable surface above the underlying unstable soil. The concrete shafts will be tied together with a reinforced concrete grade beam. Temporary jacking towers would be erected on the grade beam to restore the bridge's superstructure to its original position, and lift the weight off of the existing, rotated piers. Once the bridge has been rendered safe for traffic, permanent new concrete columns will be erected taking the place of the jacking towers.
At a press conference Tuesday, Shailen addressed speculation over when the problem was first detected. Some have questioned if the bridge should’ve been closed sooner.
“I want to be clear that we will do a thorough analysis of agency actions and the causes that led to this situation,” Shailen said. “We will do so in a transparent manner by sharing our findings publicly. However, the major focus of our efforts as an agency right now is to get this bridge reopened as safely and quickly as possible."
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The Delaware Department of Transportation uploaded video from Tuesday's press briefing online. Watch it in its entirety here:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.