Delaware I-495 bridge repair now added to federal transportation bill [video]

 The bridge shift can be seen in this picture. Both sides of the highway should be level, but are not due to shifting. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

The bridge shift can be seen in this picture. Both sides of the highway should be level, but are not due to shifting. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

As state leaders work to find a solution to the damaged bridge structure, one state leader is calling for better funding for infrastructure repair around the country.

Senator Chris Coons, D-Delaware, visited the site of the leaning support columns on I-495 Friday morning. He said Congressional gridlock has had a major impact on the state of infrastructure repair.

Coons made his comments as he was briefed by DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt on the status of the I-495 bridge span that has been closed. 

“We have a catastrophic situation,” Coons said as he outlined that the transportation trust fund will face bankruptcy if something isn’t done to restore funding by August.  He said Congress can’t reach a consensus to improve the decaying infrastructure in the country.

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Coons, along with the Delaware Congressional delegation, worked to have U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx release $2 million from the emergency highway fund for immediate relief.  But he says there are tens of billions of dollars of projects that need attention. 

Coons also said he offered an amendment to the federal emergency repair program to specifically cover repairs to the I-495 structure.  He said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., supported to the reference to the bridge in a bill before her Transportation Sub-committee.  The primary intent of the bill is to cover repairs caused by storms.  Now the Delaware bridge will be added as its own category in need of repairs.

Dirt being removed

Meanwhile, work on removing the dirt piles suspected as a cause for the bridge tilt continues around the clock.  Two companies, Diamond Material and Eastern Highway Services, are in charge of the removal.  DelDOT crews are supervising the operation.

The crews are paying careful attention to the excavation going on at the columns which support the bridge.  The crews need to dig down between 11 and 15 feet to check the integrity of the structure and also get a proper soil sample to test.

90,000 motorists travel on the bridge daily.  This will be the first weekend without access to the bridge.

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