PA-NJ Turnpike bridge closure expected to last indefinitely

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    The bridge closure occurred when this steel beam completely fractured. The break is located just below the westbound right lane of I-276. (Credit: PA Turnpike Commission)

    The bridge closure occurred when this steel beam completely fractured. The break is located just below the westbound right lane of I-276. (Credit: PA Turnpike Commission)

    The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge (I-276) on remains closed and may not reopen for weeks, disturbing the daily commuter routine for tens of thousands of motorists who use the roadway that links the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Turnpikes.

    The bridge is approximatly 15 miles northeast of Philadelphia connecting Bristol, Pa., and Burlington Township, N.J.

    Motorists heading to New Jersey will be detoured at PA Turnpike Exit 351 to Route 1 to I-95 northbound, which becomes I-295 southbound in New Jersey, to I-195 eastbound to the New Jersey Turnpike
    Motorists heading to Pennsylvania will be detoured at New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 7A to I-195 westbound to I-295 northbound, which becomes I-95 southbound; or from New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 5 to Mount Holly Road.

    The closure is the result of a steel I-beam breaking after years of pressure. While it is not known when the fracture initially occurred, or how long it had been there, it could have had a devastating impact on the bridge, according to spokesmen for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Turnpike Commissions.

    “It was a complete crack of this key steel support component,” said Carl DeFabo, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania side. “It could’ve potentially been a catastrophic failure of the bridge. We luckily averted that.”

    About 40,000 motorists rely on the bridge daily. Traffic was immediately routed away from the bridge. It could take at least two weeks to assess damage, but there is no clear timetable, according to DeFabo.

    “It’s going to take a couple of weeks to get the bridge stabilized,” New Jersey Turnpike spokesman Tom Feeney said.

    DeFabo said the two states share costs and oversight of the bridge, but the decision over who bears the brunt of stabilizing efforts, assessment, and repairs has not been formally made.

    “Our focus has really been mostly on insuring the safety of the bridge,” DeFabo said. He added the commission is focusing on trying to maintain mobility in the region.

    Feeney recommends motorists alter their commute, which would include — if possible — taking different forms of mass transit or making changes to their work schedules.

    Engineers and construction crews worked through the weekend to stabilize the bridge, according to DeFabo.

    The bridge was shut down Friday after inspectors, who were looking at a repainting project, discovered the fracture.

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