Unexpected settlement of a pier on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal bridge has forced officials to postpone repairs at the Route 9/Cool Springs Road railroad crossing. Work was scheduled to begin Friday, Sept. 30.
Barry Benton, Delaware Department of Transportation's chief bridge engineer, said over the past few months settlement of a pier at the hand-cranked bridge has created an unsafe condition, forcing immediate closure of the 100-year-old structure. He said because of the complexity of the project and the required permitting, it could take as long as three years to repair the bridge. “There is significant settling of about 7 to 8 inches; this is not a short-term fix,” Benton said. “Pieces of timber have also split.”
“The bridge problem has taken away the urgency for the road and rail repairs because there will be no rail traffic west of Georgetown using the Route 9 crossing,” Benton said.
“The work was being done primarily for rail safety reasons,” said DelDOT spokesman Geoff Sundstrom.
Sundstrom said the bridge had been inspected in February. “What makes this alarming is that this problem occurred in the last couple months,” he said.
“It happened suddenly, and we are not sure of the reason,” Benton said.
Benton said railroad workers reported the problem on Sept. 16 during a crossing.
The only client on the rail line operated by Delaware Coast Line Railroad is SPI Pharma on Cape Henlopen Drive near the entrance of Cape Henlopen State Park. Sundstrom said company officials said they can use trucks for transportation, but the company wants to maintain rail service in the long term. The company will use about one truck per day for transportation, he said. Delaware Coast Line Railroad averages two to three transports to the company per month.
Since there will be no rail traffic using the Route 9/Cool Springs Road crossing for at least three years, Sundstrom said railroad and state transportation officials will have more time to plan the Route 9 work and possibly reschedule the project for spring 2017.