Delaware Memorial Bridge gets a $93 million upgrade to protect against ship collision

A multimillion dollar project is underway at the Delaware Memorial Bridge to enhance its protection system and prevent future collisions like the 1968 tanker.

The Delaware Memorial Bridge is shown from afar, with a blue sky in the background.

The Delaware Memorial Bridge (DRBA photo)

The $93 million New Bridge Ship Collision Protection System has recently begun construction on the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

The Delaware River Bay Authority’s public information officer, James Salmon, says that the aging infrastructure supports nearly 36 billion cars annually, whether that’s for everyday commutes to work, trips to see family, or product delivery.

“The bridge is a vital transportation link on the I-95 North-South corridor. Millions of people rely on the structure of this transportation on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that the bridge is open and available for our customers to use on a daily basis.”

Since the inauguration of the bridge’s New Jersey-bound span in 1950 and the Delaware-bound span in 1968, both sections of the structure have been subject to substantial annual maintenance and essential infrastructure upgrades. These ongoing efforts, as stated by Salmon, have ensured its capability to support today’s traffic demands.

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“Today’s tankers and ships that use the Delaware River are significantly bigger, faster than they were in the fifties and sixties,” he said. “The bridge fendering system that is currently in place was satisfactory in the fifties and sixties. Today it is out-served or outlived its useful life and we need to upgrade the situation for today’s traffic.”

Upgrading the protection system will aid with any potential collisions or strikes that could happen in the future, because it has.

In 1968, “a tanker busted steering and struck one of the tower structures, causing significant damage to the pier, fender ring around the tower structure,” said Salmon.

Construction on this project has begun, with a 360 temporary trestle built from the Delaware coastline south of the New Jersey-bound bridge to transport materials and personnel to barges.

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As part of the new bridge ship collision safety system, eight 80-foot-diameter stone cylinders and four cells will be constructed at the piers supporting both sides of the towers, at a minimum of 443 feet from the edge of the 800-foot-wide Delaware River channel.

Should drivers expect delays to this project? Not at all.

“This project will not affect the traveling public at all,” Salmon says. “This is all happening in the river itself to protect the bridge structures from tankers and ship traffic that could accidentally strike the pier structures.”

This project is slated to be completed in September 2025.

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