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Gov. Markell weighs in on I-495 closure

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Problems with some support beams on the I-495 bridge over the Christina River forced the highway to close indefinitely Monday night.

The highway was shut down around 6 p.m. Monday after an inspection showed four of the 37 support columns that hold up the bridge were tilted. DelDOT engineers say the columns are leaning as much as 4 percent out of vertical alignment.

State transportation officials were first notified of a possible problem with the columns late on Friday, but an inspection crew wasn’t dispatched to examine the issue until Monday morning. “They have enough concerns that they really felt that we need to shut it down and take a deeper look,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.  He defended the state’s inspection schedule. “The two year [schedule] has worked for us for a long time.”

The bridge, a concrete deck supported by steel beams, was built to cross the Christina River in 1974. It was last inspected in October 2012. DelDOT officials say a bridge of this type typically gets inspected every two years.

About 90,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day. Now that the bridge is closed, all those vehicles have been forced to find alternative routes. Most of the traffic has diverted to I-95 through the city of Wilmington, causing heavy delays in both directions on that route and other surrounding roads.

Markell said while the closure will impact drivers and businesses in the area, safety is paramount. “Frankly, when you have the public safety at risk like this, this was the thing to do.”

He said it’s too early to tell when the roadway will reopen.

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