Delays could last through weekend as crews replace portions of crossing over Delaware River
(Photo: NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE)
Workers are replacing three cables of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
The emergency project is causing massive traffic delays out of New Jersey.
About $12.9 million was spent last year to repaint the structure.
Emergency roadwork that jammed the Delaware Memorial Bridge for hours Wednesday could last through the weekend, with heavy delays expected for motorists leaving New Jersey.
Ellen Preston, of Woodbury, New Jersey, said she sat for more than three hours Wednesday before turning her car around during her commute to Delaware and heading home.
"I'm actually surprised that people weren't having any more road rage than they were," Preston said of her lengthy backup. She never did make it to work Wednesday.
Engineers doing normal inspections found cables connecting the roadway to the toll bridge needed to be fixed immediately. Delaware River and Bay Authority spokesman Jim Salmon said the replacement is part of a larger capital improvement project to install 32 new cables over the next year.
The three cables undergoing replacement this week were deemed a priority by structural engineers, he said. They were not frayed, he said, but the cables have never been replaced since the bridge was built more than 65 years ago.
"This is not something that you want to do," Salmon said. "It's something we have to do."
“This is not something that you want to do. It's something we have to do.”
James Salmon, Delaware River and Bay Authority
Salmon said the bridge is still safe for travel.
About 45,000 vehicles a day pay the toll on the 3,650-foot-long bridge. The emergency work is expected to last a few days, though Salmon said he hopes to beat the estimate of four to five days of construction work.
The three left lanes of the southbound span are closed, leaving the far right lane the only one open for traffic. Oversized and overweight vehicles are prohibited from traveling across the bridge in that direction.
Motorists endured delays of 2½ to 4 hours in up to five-mile-long backups on Interstate 295 southbound Wednesday morning.
"It's gridlocked," said Jenn Locuson, who lives less than a mile from the bridge in New Jersey. "I've never seen it this bad on I-295, not even when they were doing construction on the bridge this summer."
Travelers were advised to use Exit 13 on I-295 southbound or Exit 2 on the New Jersey Turnpike and take to Route 322 westbound as an alternative route, but back-ups quickly ensued on those roads, too. Those using the Commodore Barry Bridge near Chester, Pennsylvania, were caught in traffic almost as bad as the Delaware Memorial Bridge itself.
Salmon said it may be in the best interest of drivers to start using the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, if possible, to avoid backups.
TRAFFIC RESOURCES: DelDOT contact numbers, construction hotlines
STORY: Del. 141 down to one daytime lane for two weeks
Many reached out to the DRBA on social media complaining of the delays. Locuson said she's just grateful she doesn't have to travel into Delaware for work. She canceled a doctor's appointment at Christiana Hospital scheduled for Thursday. Now, she won't be seen until July, she said.
"I'm not waiting in traffic for an hour, especially with a toddler," Locuson said. "I can't do it."
Others complained of it taking three hours to travel 10 miles, with traffic backed up and no end in sight. Many said the DRBA should have done more to alert travelers that the construction had started.
Preston said she heard nothing about it prior to her commute. By the time it came across the radio, she said she was already too far into the pack to exit and head back home.
"It should have been blasted on the radios," Preston said.
Commuters last summer had to endure heavy delays approaching the crossing as crews repainted the bridge's pair of towers. It cost about $12.9 million to paint both the 1951 span and the parallel 1968 span.
With the new project, Salmon said the DRBA is doing what it can to keep people updated on social media and respond to those complaining of delays. He's hopeful that traffic will improve as more people learn about construction and avoid the area.
"Our number one priority is safety and the safety of our passengers, our commuters, our customers and our contractors," he said. "And the structural integrity of the bridge."
AAA Mid-Atlantic directed drivers to 511nj.org and deldot.gov for the latest on travel advisories. Salmon also said the bridge's Twitter account, @demembridge, will be updated as information is available.
As for how Preston is getting to work tomorrow, the commuter didn't have an answer. She heard about the major backups on the Commodore Barry Bridge Wednesday and said the Walt Whitman Bridge is just too far out of the way for her trek to Wilmington.
Read More : http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/traffic/2016/04/20/del-memorial-bridge-work-backs-up-traffic/83274288/