DelDOT: 495 emergency calls mishandled, reforms issued

By Amy Cherry 5:34pm, July 3, 2014 - Updated 5:45pm, July 3, 2014
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.
An internal investigation by DelDOT finds the state transportation agency mishandled the I-495 bridge closure.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

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DelDOT admits the agency made a mistake by mishandling citizens' emergency calls, calls that warned them as early as April that I-495 had a problem and needed to be shut down.

"We clearly missed opportunities to close the bridge earlier, but I am grateful that we got it closed in time before there was any injuries or loss of life," said DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt.

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Bhatt says the state transportation agency should've reacted quicker to that first 911 call from an Elkton, Maryland man.

"And I want to be very clear, Charles Allen was driving, I'm assuming at the speed limit, so 65 miles per hour, he really nailed this," said Bhatt.

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The 495 bridge debacle has led Bhatt to introduce a new policy when it comes to major roadways and bridges, and he promises...

"We're going to respond to these high priority conditions more effectively and quicker," he said. "It should be our standard practice that we go out immediately and not say that we'll get out to it in the next week, that is something that's already been changed," Bhatt assured the public.

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Bhatt says he'll also expand the scope of state bridge expansions. National standards require inspection every two years, but Bhatt says Delaware will inspect its bridges more frequently. Those inspections will also include land use around the bridged to prevent another massive dirt pile or other equipment from being stored under bridges.

DelDOT is looking into a larger investment in electronic bridge monitoring technology that's used by the Indian River Bridge and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

"Are there structures like this bridge like the I-95 bridge in Wilmington, the viaduct, the Rte. 141 bridge in Newport, is there technology that we want to place on there so it's not just biannual inspections and the public that are letting us know about this?" Bhatt asked.

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Bhatt says while so far no one at DelDOT has been fired, they're conducting a personnel investigation.

"We're looking into the conduct of everyone that was involved," he said.

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Bhatt is confident I-495 southbound will open re-open on target Labor Day with the northbound side re-opening several weeks later.

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