Cause of cracks on Delaware bridge still not clear

    Cracks are the latest setback for the troubled construction project.

    Efforts to build a new bridge over the Indian River Inlet in Sussex County have been delayed by cracks discovered in the structure’s decking.  The cause of those cracks are still unclear.

    The hairline cracks were discovered during routine inspections earlier this summer.  DelDOT Chief Engineer Natalie Barnhart says the cracks will be filled and fixed with an epoxy material.  “We have not come to a final conclusion on what caused it, other than to know that it’s probably a combination of a series of factors that are particular to those two specific areas of the bridge.”  Barnhart says the sections where the cracks occurred pose unique challenges to the design team.  “There’s a lot of forces at play, there’s the cable stays themselves, the deck section is a little thicker in depth in this area.  So there’s a lot of factors at play, it’s a very complex area from a design standpoint.”

    The cracks are the latest in a string of setbacks for the bridge.  A previous attempt at building the bridge had to be completely scrapped after problems were discovered.  Barnhart says DelDOT leaders understand that the public is carefully monitoring the progress.  “I think because of the project’s history, I think it just focuses a light a little stronger on any issue that we may have with the current construction unfortunately.”  She says DelDOT is trying to be as open as possible about the issues facing the construction process.

    State Representative John Kowalko (D- Newark South) calls the discovery of another problem in the construction process “astoundingly discouraging.”  Kowalko says, “The bridge itself has been an effort, I think, almost in seems in futility.”

    The discovery of the cracks and some other factors have delayed the project’s timeline.  The bridge was originally scheduled to be completed by next summer, now that completion date is tentatively scheduled for next fall.  Barnhart says, “That’s as of today, that’s where it looks like it’s tracking… We can’t guarantee that that will work, but we also don’t want to sacrifice the safety of the people who are working down there, the traveling public, or the quality to gain little bits of time back.”

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