The I-495 bridge will remain closed for the rest of the summer, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation.
DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt and engineers outlined plans that would open a portion of the bridge to traffic by Labor Day.
“What we’ve come up with a hybrid solution of putting the bridge on a firm foundation and then jacking up the existing structure in order to open the southbound lanes first because there is a less damage on that side and the northbound lanes potentially about a month later,” Bhatt said.
The plans include constructing new foundations deep into the bedrock. If that doesn’t work, there’s a small chance that they could have to tear down the 400 foot damaged span.
“If that’s the case you’ll be looking at later this year or early next year before you would see traffic there,” Bhatt said. He added that would be a worst case scenario.
The bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington was closed last week after engineers noticed four support columns were tilted.
Crews have spent the past week clearing a 50,000 ton dirt stock pile located beside the bridge. On Monday, DelDOT reported that the bridge rebounded 0.1 degrees as the dirt was cleared.
Bhatt said it’s premature to say what caused the tilting but Harry Roecker, deputy engineer of AECOM, the firm managing the project, said the damage to the bridge is consistent with “lateral force pushing against the original bridge foundation.”
The cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at $20 million and the state is receiving $2 million in emergency federal funds.
Bhatt said the project will push other DelDOT jobs down the department’s priority list. “This was a project that was not on the list as of last week, this has now been dropped to number one on the list,” he said.
On top of all that news there is still work going on for Delaware’s other major highway. DelDOT is moving forward with a scheduled patching and repaving project along I-95 northbound from the south end of the Brandywine Bridge to just north of Exit 8.
The construction will reduce traffic to one lane between midnight and 5 a.m. from June 10-13.
As summer traffic increases over the next few weeks, Bhatt encourages motorists to plan ahead and adjust their travel routes.
Traffic updates are available on DelDOT’s website, social media and mobile app.