WILMINGTON, Del. - Engineers say subsurface ground movement appears to have caused supporting columns on an Interstate 495 bridge in Delaware to tilt, forcing the indefinite closure of the highway and causing traffic headaches.
Officials said Tuesday they believe the bridge over the Christina River is stable enough to support itself, but that re-opening it to traffic could overload the structure.
Four pairs of 50-foot columns have been found to be tilting, with the top of one column roughly two feet out of line with the bottom. Cars are being diverted onto the already busy I-95 causing even more traffic for East Coast motorists.
Engineers are conducting tests to determine the exact cause of the problem. No exact timetable for the bridge to reopen has been determined.
THE PROBLEM: The Delaware Department of Transportation is telling drivers from Maine to Florida to make plans to get around a section of an interstate that's closed because of columns that are tilting on a bridge in Wilmington.
HOW TO GET AROUND IT: The affected route, Interstate 495, parallels Interstate 95. So I-95 through downtown Wilmington is the main detour.
FROM MAINE, NEW YORK AND OTHER POINTS: Southbound traffic on I-495 is closed at the Pennsylvania state line, with traffic diverted onto I-95 southbound. Drivers traveling south from New York may want to stay on the New Jersey Turnpike, rather than getting on I-95, crossing into Delaware over the Delaware Memorial Bridge south of Wilmington and then getting back on I-95. Southbound port of Wilmington traffic is being directed to Interstate 295 east and then to Delaware 9 north to the port.
HEADING NORTH ALONG THE EAST COAST: Officials say I-495 is closed northbound at Terminal Avenue, which leads to the port of Wilmington. Drivers traveling north can stay on I-95 through Wilmington or take Interstate 295 into New Jersey and bypass northern Delaware. Local northbound traffic can stay on I-495 to Terminal Avenue.