Sen. Tom Carper stopped at the Wilmington Riverfront on Thursday to promote a new bridge project.
Intended to create another means of accessing the Riverfront from Route 13, the project centers around a 470-foot bridge that crosses the Christina River.
The bridge would start at the end of the Shipyard Shops on the west side of the river and connect to a new intersection on the river’s east side at the split of Market and Walnut streets.
“It will redistribute and separate the traffic better and provide for better relief of congestion,” said Ray Petrucci of the Delaware Department of Transportation. “This improvement will upgrade the entire character of the Riverfront.”
The Riverfront’s popularity as a Wilmington destination grew during the past decade as entertainment venues, restaurants and housing units were developed in the area.
“That direct access to U.S. 13 and to I-495 and I-95 south is so important,” added Petrucci. “People go to the ballgames, or they go to the Chase Center, the IMAX Theater or the hotel that just opened. Getting out is tough.”
Carper, D-Delaware, explained that there’s $20 million available in federal funding, but conceded that it is only a percentage of what the project will ultimately cost.
“It’s just a vision unless we have the money to pay for it,” said Carper, who also chairs the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “We’ve got about 40 percent of the money through the earmark from seven to nine years ago, and the state needs to pony up about $8 million and the federal government needs to pony up another $24 million.”
Carper observed that long-term improvements to federal transportation funding must be made before the project can move forward.
“The transportation trust fund is broke, and the state transportation fund is struggling,” he said. “The governor has asked for an increase in user fees, [he] hasn’t gotten it yet, but I hope the legislators will feel comfortable later on to support a gradual increase in user fees to make sure the state is able to do its share.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Jack Markell proposed a ten cent per gallon increase to the state’s gas tax, but lawmakers did not move forward with the proposal.