Commuters crossed I-495 northbound over the Christina River this morning, the first Monday commuters have been able to use the lanes since June.
“Let’s build some bridges. Let’s build some roads. Now I’m gonna sign my memorandum.”
This is how Barack Obama ended his speech today in Wilmington, Delaware, where he spoke about transportation funding. He appeared in Delaware due to the shuttering of the I-495 bridge thanks to tilting bridge columns. Federal funds are paying for some of the repairs. “When I get a chance to help communities like Wilmington,” Obama said, “I’m going to do it.”
After his speech, Obama signed a memorandum that creates the “Build America” initiative, which creates an office that helps local and state governments get federal transportation funding credits and encourages the growth of private-public partnerships for infrastructure. “We’re creating a one-stop shop for cities and states looking to partner with the private sector to fund infrastructure projects,” Obama said.
The Delaware Department of Transportation said Wednesday that part of the I-495 bridge could open early, perhaps before Labor Day. Previous projections put the bridge opening sometime after the holiday.
The I-495 bridge has been closed since early June, when support columns for the bridge — which carries I-495 over the Christina River — were found to have tilted.
DelDOT is drilling 32 new shafts to create new support columns. That drilling is expected to be finished ahead of schedule, on Tuesday of next week, July 15th. Look how excited the press release is about it: “This is possible because the drilling operation has gone exceedingly well, and because all of the necessary personnel, material and equipment have converged from around the United States on the site when needed.” U-S-A! U-S-A!
The heavily travelled federal highway will be closed all summer after an engineer noticed that the bridge’s support piers were damaged. The emergency repairs are expected to cost $20 million.
An investigation found that someone dumped 55 thousand tons of dirt under the bridge causing the piers to shift and crack. Keogh Contracting owns the dirt and is helping to haul it away, but that much dirt doesn’t just appear overnight. It has to be approved with government permits, especially since much of the dirt was piled high on state owned land.
Charles Copeland, a former state legislator and chair of the state Republican party, isn’t ready to put all the blame on the contractor. “He didn’t just wake up one day and say ‘I’m just going to start dumping dirt under 495,’” Copeland told me during a television interview. “He did that under contracts, he did that under authorities.”
So who approved the dirt that broke the bridge? Read more »
The Delaware Department of Transportation released an optimistic update on the repair effort for the closed I-495 bridge. Saying it was “rapidly moving ahead,” DelDOT says work is moving smoothly.
Workers plan to install 32 steel-reinforced concrete shafts to support the bridge, which was closed indefinitely in early June. So far, three have been completed and three are scheduled to be completed today.
The I-495 bridge over the Christina River in Delaware could be partially re-opened by Labor Day, officials say, but it will take a summer of round-the-clock repairs just to meet that modest goal.
“The southbound lanes of the I-495 bridge spanning the Christina River in Wilmington, DE could be open as soon as Labor Day this year, and the northbound lanes would be opened several weeks after that,” said Shailen Bhatt, Delaware’s transportation secretary, in a briefing yesterday.
Until then: Life will be hell for many Delaware commuters.
NBC 10 reports: “Internet giant Google eliminated a portion of Interstate 495 in Delaware from its iPhone and Android map apps and online maps after a bridge along the highway was closed because it was tilting. The road which snakes along the Delaware River in Wilmington is used as a fast bypass of Interstate 95, the major East Coast artery.”
If you drive through the first state for work, your commute just got a bit worse. Okay, a lot worse.
Philly.com reports a bridge on I-495 in Delaware is closed indefinitely. Four columns that carry I-495 over the Christina River, a tributary of the Delaware, are tiled 2.4 degrees (or about 4 percent). Reports of the tilting columns came in Friday, but the bridge was not closed until Monday.
Officials say the bridge is considered fracture critical, which means the failure of one column could lead to the collapse of the entire bridge.