Major work starts to re-deck the northbound span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge

Expect delays on both spans of the Delaware Memorial Bridge for months to come, as work begins on re-decking the more than 70-year-old structure.

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

The Delaware Memorial Bridge (DRBA photo)

More than a million cars cross the Delaware River between New Castle, Delaware, and Pennsville, New Jersey, every month. Since the first span opened in 1951, more than one billion cars have crossed the twin span. All of that traffic over all those decades obviously results in lots of wear and tear.

To keep the structure running for future travel, the top two inches of the existing deck slabs on the older New Jersey-bound span will be removed and replaced using ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC).

The project is expected to cost about $71 million.

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“The bridge deck of the New Jersey-bound span has reached the end of its serviceable life and requires substantial repair and rehabilitation,” said David Hoppenjans, DRBA’s chief engineer. “Based on the testing and analysis performed during the pilot project completed in September 2020, the UHPC process has more than met our expectations as a cost-effective and durable solution to restore the bridge deck.”

A close-up of work being done on the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Two inches of pavement on the northbound span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge will be replaced over the next year. (DRBA photo)

To get that work done, two lanes will be closed on the northbound span during the day, with a third lane shut to allow more work during the overnight hours. Drivers on the southbound span will also be affected, as one lane on the southbound side will be converted to handle northbound traffic.

DRBA officials say drivers should expect delays.

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The initial phase of the project is now underway and will run through until just before Thanksgiving. Work will be suspended during the winter months and the peak summer travel season. Work will resume in February 2023 and run until just before Memorial Day. A third phase will run from September 2023 until late November.

Maintenance and upkeep on the bridges are always ongoing because of their advanced age. In 2017, the DRBA completed a $35 million project to extend the life of the bridges by adding a dehumidifier system around the main suspension cable. The project was designed to keep moisture from the river from corroding the cables.

The cost of that project and the new decking pales in comparison to what it would cost to replace the bridge. DRBA officials estimate that could cost as much as $1.3 billion.

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