Delaware Republicans want answers over concerns on the Indian River bridge contract

    Calls for new accountability from Delaware republicans on the troubled Indian River Inlet bridge now under construction along Delaware’s beach coastline

    While concerns over delays in the Route 1 Indian River Inlet bridge continue to grow.  Six republican members of the Delaware House have sent a letter to Del DOT Secretary Carolyn Wicks demanding answers over a 2007 issue with  the bridge and a failed design.

    The most recent concerns surfaced last month when cracks were found on the driving surface of the yet to be completed bridge that will be the final link on Route 1 that connects the beach towns in Sussex County.  There was a routine inspection of the bridge in early August.   The cracks found on the road surface has now forced DelDot to move their planned spring 2011 opening of the bridge back another 6 months. DelDot engineers believe the cracks can easily be fixed with epoxy glue.

    Before those problems were made public Rep. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) wanted answer as to why an earthern ramp that was part of a 2007 design was abandoned.   He and seven other Sussex County republicans are demanding an accountability on why that project failure took place and whether money can be recouped for the state’s losses on the project.  In the letter Lavelle writes, “we believe we have been very patient…but our patience is coming to an end.”  He says he asked for answers on why there were project delays three different times.  The last time was six months ago, and still no response.   He goes on to say, “this is an issue of accountability.  This looks like DelDot is just delaying, delaying, delaying.”

    Rep. Gerald Hocker (R-OceanView) and Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) agree and call the issue a matter of safety and accounting for money spent.  King points out the first bridge design cost the state $14million when the plan was scrapped.  Both say public confidence is being undermined.

    Lavelle says eventhough there was money spent that is lost, DelDot may be able to recoup some of the funds from companies who performed that work.

    A DelDot spokesperson did respond to our request for statement:

    “We agree with the concerns of lawmakers and residents that there were clearly problems with the initial design efforts on the Indian River Inlet Bridge.  Due to those shared concerns, we launched an investigation that is taking time to complete. The department is moving in a thorough and proper manner that is consistent with an administrative dispute resolution process that keeps taxpayers’ and public interest priority.  While we all wish this process was faster, we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the best possible long term outcome for taxpayers by limiting in any way the assignment of responsibility or financial recovery simply for the sake of short-term expediency.

    Secretary Wicks will be responding to lawmakers’ concerns and we expect to issue a more detailed report within four to six weeks. The Secretary of Transportation has updated lawmakers during the process.  DelDOT employees have also updated legislators in several meetings, including monthly update meetings that are being attended by at least one of the legislators who signed this letter and other lawmakers and members of the community.”

    WHYY and First will continue to follow this story.

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