Work Begins on the "Gateway to the Beaches" - The New Indian River Inlet Bridge
The Indian River Inlet Bridge Project officially began last Thursday, March 17, when one of the southbound lanes on the approach to the existing bridge resulted in a lane closure. This lane closure, which will continue until mid-May, will be for the installing of a retaining wall to protect and shore-up the existing Route 1 during the construction of the new roadway embankment and foundations for the new bridge. This is a critical step in the pre-construction work that will allow the Department of Transportation to begin the actual construction of the bridge sometime this summer.
Concerns over reoccurring scour to the existing bridge piers caused by high velocity inlet flow at the site led DelDOT to seek a solution that would span the entire inlet and eliminate having piers in the water.
During the past 40-years the strong tidal currents have increased the depth of the inlet in places from 30-feet to more than 100-feet, increasing maintenance costs for the existing bridge. Large rocks, some as large as Volkswagens, known as rip-rap, have been placed to protect the pier foundations and monitoring of the foundation conditions continues. In order to eliminate concerns over the inlet tidal currents, the main span, which will be the world's longest single concrete arch cable supported bridge, will stretch 1,000-feet across the inlet.
A commitment to Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's "Livable Delaware" plan led DelDOT to seek a resolution that would improve the economy and, ultimately, the lifestyle for those who live and vacation in Sussex County.
"We've been working under the Governor's 'Livable Delaware' philosophy to try to do three things simultaneously," explains DelDOT Secretary Nathan Hayward III. "The first is that we are solving a transportation problem; not just for cars and trucks, but for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge will be assessable for all. Second; we're preparing for the future and the economy. The third; which is a goal wherever we work, is the enhancement of the environment. In fact 25 percent of the budgeted cost of the entire project will be spent on the enhancement and expansion of services of the Delaware Seashore State Park. This park is one of the most successful in the entire eastern region and is Delaware's most active."
During the four-year construction phase there will be some reduction of services in the park, however, Charles A. Salkin, State Parks Director says, "the silver lining is that we will be making some much-needed improvements during the closure." These will include a laundry building, bathhouse and a series of trails where visitors will be able to stroll, bike or bird-watch along the shoreline.
The three areas that will remain closed during construction are; the north overflow campground, the day-use parking and the south-side of the old camp. However the new campgrounds site on the south-side with 145 campsites will remain open.
While residents and travelers can expect to see continuous construction activity from now until the completion of the project scheduled for the fall of 2008, the southbound lane is expected to reopen before Memorial Day weekend. This retaining "sheet pile wall" will be created by driving interconnecting steel "Z" shaped panels into the ground forming a continuous wall parallel to existing Route 1 along the western edge of the southbound lanes. The wall will be constructed on both sides of the Inlet. Each section will be approximately 450 feet long. All work will take place behind portable concrete barriers.
Motorists are advised to use caution when traveling in this area and allow extra time to reach their destination.
For more information, visit the Indian River Inlet Bridge website at: IndianRiverInletBridge.com, the DelDOT's website at www.deldot.net, or tune to WTMC-AM, 1380.