A really big crane will lift swing bridge

Workers are ready to move historic structure along Lewes-Rehoboth Canal
February 12, 2022

The process to assemble a 900-ton, all-terrain crane to lift the historic Lewes railroad swing bridge got underway early Feb. 14 at a staging area in the parking lot of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal in Lewes.

Delaware Department of Transportation contractor Digging & Rigging Inc. has more than a dozen trucks and tractor-trailers at the site. The company, headquartered in Sparrows Point, Md., has four locations in Maryland, and one each in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The crane moved to the bridge site at the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal along Gills Neck Road around 1 p.m., Feb. 14. “Once assembly is completed, the bridge could be moved as soon as tomorrow [Feb. 15], but we won’t have a definitive time until Tuesday morning at the earliest,” said Charles “C.R.” McLeod, DelDOT director of community relations.

The section of Gills Neck Road around the bridge site is closed to traffic.

The project to lift the swing bridge was halted Dec. 1 when it was determined the crane in place could not lift the structure. The weight was estimated at 70 tons, when in actuality, the bridge weighs 102.5 tons or 205,000 pounds.

The 105-year-old swing bridge, one of the last remaining hand-cranked railroad bridges in the country, has not been used for nearly five years. The bridge was deemed unsafe in 2017 and closed after the discovery that scouring around its supports in the canal had dropped the bridge's foundation 7 to 8 inches.

The Lewes Junction Railroad & Bridge Association can be credited with saving the bridge from being scrapped. Through the cooperation of DelDOT, the City of Lewes and the association, a plan was developed to save the bridge and find a location to display it.

Some of the site work has been completed on the permanent display area along the trail from Lewes to Cape Henlopen State Park at the end of American Legion Road.

The project also includes removal of the embankment on the marsh side of the canal, and construction of a trailhead and fishing area at the end of the trail along the canal side.

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