WILMINGTON, Del., June 6 (UPI) -- Delaware plans to take a close look at all its major bridges following the shutdown of the I-495 bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington.
Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said engineers will be looking for problems with the bridges themselves and for conditions that could cause problems. Engineers say that support pillars on the I-495 bridge could have begun leaning because of large piles of dirt dumped in the area by a contractor.
"We want to get eyes on all our bridges -- make sure we don't have a design like this, or soil conditions like this," Bhatt said Thursday. "We don't think that's the case, but we want to be sure."
The I-495 bridge was closed to traffic earlier this week, causing major headaches for commuters and for drivers traveling between Baltimore and Philadelphia on I-95. I-495 provides an alternative in the Wilmington area to the main highway, which runs through the heart of the city.
Lee Derrickson of the Delaware Motor Transport Association said trucking companies are having to "pay a heavy penalty in tolls" by using the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike instead of toll-free I-95. He estimated the added cost at $20 to $30 a trip for trucks traveling from Delaware to the New York area.
Bhatt said he is unsure when the I-495 bridge can reopen.
"Right now, I can eliminate a solution that's going to take place in days, and I can eliminate a solution that's going to take place in years," Bhatt said.
Gov. Jack Markell, who toured the bridge Thursday, announced the state is getting $2 million in emergency federal assistance to get repairs on a fast track.