The southbound lanes of the I-495 bridge spanning the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware, will not be reopened until Labor Day at the soonest, and the northbound lanes could be opened several weeks later, Delaware Department of Transportation officials said June 10.
The first phase of construction to reopen the bridge is estimated to cost $20 million. The cost of permanently fixing the problem is not yet certain, Delaware DOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said.
The plan to reopen the bridge, closed June 2 after inspectors found four tilted pillars, calls for the construction of new concrete-filled shafts down to bedrock beneath the columns that have tilted out of alignment, creating a stable surface above the underlying unstable soil.
"We first looked at just shoring up the existing bridge, but that option was quickly ruled out because of the poor soil conditions,” Bhatt said. “Another idea was to fully reconstruct this section of the bridge. That option would've put us at an early 2015 opening, which was not a viable option given the traffic volume the bridge normally carries."
Some 90,000 vehicles normally travel across the bridge that bypasses Wilmington each day — 10,000 of them trucks hauling freight in the region and along the East Coast.