WILMINGTON, Del., June 10 (UPI) -- The southbound lanes on the I-495 bridge in Wilmington could reopen by Labor Day, the state Department of Transportation said Tuesday.
Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said the northbound side could reopen within weeks after that.
The bridge over the Cristina River was closed down earlier this month because some of the support pillars were leaning as much as two feet. I-495 provides drivers traveling between Baltimore and Philadelphia with an alternative to I-95, which cuts through downtown Wilmington, and is also the major access road for the port of Wilmington.
Bhatt said the state considered three options, including a quick shoring up of the pillars for a speedy reopening and a total reconstruction that would have kept the bridge closed into 2015. He said the state instead decided to bring in a contractor quickly, working with the original bridge designer.
"We didn't want to lose time by designing something on paper that a contractor couldn't build in the field," he said. "Work will proceed 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the bridge is reopened."
The closing has created major traffic headaches in the Wilmington area with one contributor to the South Jersey Times' Facebook page complaining of "parking lot conditions." But drivers appear to be staying away from one possible alternative, taking the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike.
Jim Salmon, a spokesman for the Delaware River and Bay Authority, said there have been no noticeable "upticks" in traffic on the Delaware Memorial Bridge.