Sand covers Route 1; IR bridge declared sound

Highway closed until Thursday from Dewey to Bethany
Aerial view looking north shows sand covering the approach to the Indian River inlet bridge. BY RON MACARTHUR
October 30, 2012

The abandoned roadway leading up to the old Indian River Inlet bridge is scattered in bits and pieces across the beach, showcasing the destructive power of Mother Nature.

After a visual inspection of the new bridge, a Department of Transportation engineer said the span is structurally sound, but a breach of the barrier dune on the north side of the inlet buried the approaches under several feet of sand.

"It's through the vision of former governors and our current governor that got the new bridge in place," said DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt. "We opened it earlier this year, and it just goes to show how important infrastructure is to both our state and the tourism community, but also times like these, where if we had not had the new bridge in place, we would be talking about a lot different of a story right now."

Route 1 from Dewey Beach to Bethany Beach will be closed until at least Thursday, Gov. Jack Markell said. The pedestrian walkway under the bridge is closed indefinitely, and the remnants of the abandoned road will be removed.

More than a dozen front-end loaders were clearing the highway of sand and debris Tuesday, Oct. 30, and work will continue until motorists are safely able to navigate the road. There may be lane restrictions when the roadway is reopened, Markell said.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf used the destruction at the inlet as an example of why residents should listen to evacuation orders.

"This is why we were trying to tell everyone to get out of town, to go to a shelter, to go somewhere safe," he said. "It was almost a ghost town around here, and that's the way it should've been. [The inlet] is just proof that if you stay and tempt Mother Nature, you're going to lose."

Markell toured the state via helicopter and noted several problem areas at Prime Hook Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. He said he was pleased to see how well some of the coastal communities fared.

At the peak of the storm, Markell said, the state's seven shelters housed about 1,200 people. By Tuesday afternoon, about 10 percent of that number remained, he said.

"We certainly fared better than what forecasts had predicted, and we certainly fared better than some surrounding states," Markell said. "I know all of our hearts go out to those who have died, their loved ones and those who have really been traumatized by this in other states."