Less than three months following damage from Hurricane Sandy, work has started to protect the Route 1 road bed on the north side approaches to the Indian River Inlet bridge.
Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said Hurricane Sandy was a wakeup call to state officials. “No one expected the extreme damage to the transportation system,” he said. Six DelDOT resort transit buses are still being used in New Jersey because part of the commuter rail system was damaged when the storm hit the New Jersey coast.
Bhatt said a crane is in place to begin the process of driving large, sheet-metal pilings into the sand along a 800- to 900-foot section of Route 1 to keep waves from undermining the road during a major storm such as Hurricane Sandy. The sheet metal will be driven about 40 feet into the sand to provide stop-gap protection for the roadway's foundation.
“The water is closer to the bridge than ever before. There will be storms and water and sand will wash over the road,” Bhatt said. “What we don't want is the road bed to be undermined. This is our best attempt at a good solution.”
Bhatt said under extreme conditions, the bridge abutments are designed to be partially submerged.
The update was offered by Bhatt during a roundtable discussion Jan. 7 with media from around the state. In office less than two years, Bhatt has committed to quarterly meetings with the media.
As Hurricane Sandy churned off the coast of Delaware the last weekend in October, waves and storm surge pushed tons of sand over Route 1, forcing DelDOT to close the road and Indian River Inlet bridge for a week.
During a major storm, the sheet metal wall would disperse the wave force away from the roadway, the secretary said. But there is no guarantee that repeated wave and storm surge would produce the same results as witnessed during Hurricane Sandy, Bhatt said, even though the full brunt of the storm did not hit the Delaware coast.
The estimated $2 million cost of the project is covered with 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent state funds.
Developing a priority list
Bhatt said DelDOT's project list far exceeds available funding. He is pushing for a project prioritization program using public participation and legislative input to develop a list of projects most needing immediate attention.
Other highlights of Bhatt's media roundtable:
DelDOT has made an offer on 10 acres of land north of Milford for the Thompsonville Road-Route 1 interchange.
Mandatory mediation will occur later this year in DelDOT's $19.6 million lawsuit against former Indian River Inlet bridge builder Figg Engineering and subcontractor MACTEC, with a trial date of May 2014.
DelDOT's attorney remains active in land-purchase negotiations with the developer of the proposed Patriot's Landing housing project near Millsboro. The land would provide a corridor for a possible Route 113 bypass.
A complete review of Delaware Transit Corp. operations and finances is under way by new CEO Lauren Skiver. “I have asked that we hold the line on additional subsidies to our transit program, and that we find ways to be more efficient in the delivery of our services,” Bhatt said.
DelDOT has proposed a $339 million operating budget for fiscal 2014, which is a 2 percent reduction from the fiscal year 2013 budget.
DelDOT has adopted a no-borrow budget policy for 2013, which will help trim the agency's debt service from 37 percent of the operating budget to 33 percent; the end goal is 20 percent.