The full closure of the St. Georges Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 13 over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in southern New Castle County, will be lifted by January 31, 2019, as necessary rehabilitation of that span is completed on schedule, weather permitting.

The announcement was made in a release issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Philadelphia District.

The closure, effective September 10, 2018 was initially announced on February 23, after a biennial inspection alerted engineers to specific areas of deterioration on the bridge.

"We're constantly maintaining the bridge," assured Gavin Kaiser, USACE Project Manager for the C&D Canal. "Just like any of our bridges, [this bridge] needs improvement to just maintain its structural stability. The bridge is safe, it has been safe. This [was preventive] maintenance that we're continuously doing.

"We complete inspections on all of our bridges every 24 months, very in depth inspections," Kaiser continued. "So this project was put out to address findings in the inspection."

Specifically, crews have been replacing 45 steel floor beam cover plates underneath the bridge, and the removal of them requires that there is no traffic passing above.

"Although we never like to close a full bridge--or even do a lane closure on a bridge--it's vital that no live load is on the bridge when these cover plates are removed and replaced," Kaiser said in justifying the long-term closure. 

Other repairs have included restoring all deck joint strip seals, which prohibit water from seeping through the deck floor and degrading the steel substructure, as well as other miscellaneous structural steel reinforcements.

The closure has also enabled crews to address repairs on the bridge deck itself, notably with regard to potholes.

"We're taking advantage of the full bridge closure," admitted Kaiser. "That (the pothole repair) was not in the scope of the contract, but we wanted to make full use of the [closure's] impact on the public."

Constructed in 1941, repairs would be inevitable for the tied-arch structure. And yet, despite regular inspections readily identifying any deterioration, some surprises remained for the contractor, Freysinnet USA, based in Sterling, VA.

"There's always a changing of site conditions from when you [first] get out there," Kaiser revealed. "We've addressed those [changes] and we've been fortunate enough to maintain our schedule and continue to be on schedule. That's a testament to the team--not just from the Corps, but our contractor and even DelDOT."

Welcome news for a canal crossing which, since 2010 when bicycle lanes were introduced in both directions, now serves multi-modal traffic.

"We're really excited to turn that [bridge] back over because we know it's been quite a hardship for many of the citizens in the area."