The replacement of a crumbling bridge deck, a job that had long been postponed for shorter-term quick fixes, was the subject of a recent public workshop advising residents and commuters of the impending closure.
The walk-in meeting, organized by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), was held on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at the George Read Middle School, located at 314 East Basin Road in New Castle.
Fittingly, the site for the workshop is merely several hundred feet from where the rehabilitation was scheduled to take place, beginning in mid-September 2017.
The project--BR 1-680 on SR 141 Basin Road over US 13--will promise a full closure of the span for a period of 45 days, when crews begin the work of ripping up the existing deck and then replacing with precast concrete deck panels, as were used in a similar bridge replacement on Interstate 95.
"Same exact technology," revealed Jason Hastings, DelDOT Bridge Design Engineer, "for using the same ultra-high performance concrete to connect the joints between the panels [to] make them strong and durable, and quick[ly]. Work like this would normally take six to eight months."
Another aspect of the construction is to jack up the bridge, because of damage created from frequent strikes from oversized trucks which pass underneath.
"The vertical clearance is about 14 feet-2 inches here," Hastings described, "and we designed [now] to 14 feet-6 inches. So we're going to jack the bridge up by about four inches. It's very similar to what we do with a car, when you have a flat tire. It's just a much bigger jack, obviously. We set the jacks under the beams [and] we jack them to the height that they need to be [at]. We'll put in new bearings at the higher elevation and then take pressure off the jack and set them down onto the new bearings."
Fortunately, the beams themselves are in acceptable shape, requiring only some cleaning and repainting. The substructure, the bridge piers and abutments, is also in satisfactory condition, with only minor patching necessary.
Another significant upgrade within the project's scope is the removal of the stop condition at an accident-prone merge area, at the top of the off-ramp from northbound Route 13 onto northbound Route 141.
"We're taking 141 northbound and making the left lane a continuous thru lane and the right lane will be a drop lane, which will be a dedicated lane across the bridge [for ramp traffic]," Hastings detailed. "So we'll get rid of the accidents, we'll get rid of the congestion. Traffic volumes support [the change], as just as many cars veer off that go to [northbound Route] 13 as those that go over the bridge now. So it'll be a much more safe situation when we're done."
Existing sidewalks will also be revamped across the bridge. The design calls for the removal of the crumbling 3-foot-wide path adjacent to the southbound lanes of the bridge, and instead creating a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the northbound side. The expanded route for pedestrians will be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, as well as provide an additional level of safety by placing a barrier wall between vehicular and foot traffic.
Despite an expedited timeline, which will complete the project in only 135 calendar days, the project start date wasn't ideal. Commencing just two weeks after the return to nearby schools, notably George Read Middle School, the construction will have significant impacts on the schools' transportation routes.
"We've worked pretty closely with the [Colonial] School District. We tried to get the work done during the summer. Some delays in contracting, and acquiring some of the materials---the bearings, in particular---have pushed us into a September start date. The District has been great to work with [and] we appreciate their cooperation. We've done everything we can to get the impact down, as much as we can. They're just going to have to reroute their buses for the 45 days [full closure], and then we're done and we won't bother them anymore."
Some overnight restrictions and weekend closures will be necessary to complete other aspects of the project---such as ramp curb repaving, and other tie-in work---to bring the project to completion by February 2018.