Now what? I-495 bridge closed indefinitely in Wilmington

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Thursday, June 05, 2014

Truckers are among the 90,000 vehicles per day being forced to detour around the Interstate 495 bridge in Wilmington, Del. State transportation officials closed the bridge in both directions Monday, June 2, after an inspection found four of the 37 pairs of vertical support columns had tilted out of alignment.

Delaware Department of Transportation officials say the bridge can stand on its own, but cannot hold traffic until engineers fix the problem. DelDOT believes the ground that anchors the bridge columns may have shifted or eroded, causing the piers to tilt about 4 percent out of alignment. They’re also trying to determine whether soil piled nearby by a private contractor from an unrelated project played a role in the shift.

I-495 remains closed in both directions from Terminal Avenue to 12th Street, and that is causing headaches for truckers accessing the Port of Wilmington.

Through traffic is using I-95, I-295 and the New Jersey Turnpike, and port trucks are being asked to use I-295.

“We fully understand the significant regional impact this closure will have on traffic and are working with our regional partners to do what we can to mitigate the situation,” DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said in a statement.

“These steps will include adjusting signal timing, utilizing Delaware State Police where needed and designing a temporary traffic signal at Terminal Avenue.”

The bridge, built in 1974, is 4,800 feet long. The DOT says an October 2012 inspection showed no deficiencies.

One suggested fix by engineers is to design a temporary brace that brings the columns back into alignment.

“We are working with the Federal Highway Administration to determine if emergency relief funding is available,” DelDOT stated.

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