It's the No. 1 question on many people's minds. When will the Lewes railroad swing bridge be moved?
Removal of the 105-year-old steel bridge over the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal was abruptly halted Dec. 1 when the contractor determined the weight of the bridge was much more than estimated. The crane proposed for the lift was not large enough to safely life the bridge onto a truck for transport to a permanent display site.
The contractor, Richard E. Pierson, has determined that the bridge weighs 102.5 tons, which is 32 tons more than the original estimate of 70 tons.
The good news is that the piers at the relocation site at the end of American Legion Road can accommodate the additional weight, according to Charles “C.R.” McLeod, Delaware Department of Transportation's community relations director.
McLeod said the contractor is completing a new relocation plan based on the revised weight.
Bridge not used for nearly five years
The 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 railroad line was used to transport materials to and from SPI Pharma, a manufacturing company located at the end of the rail line along Cape Henlopen Drive. Owned by Associated British Foods, the company produces ingredients for antacids.
The railroad line from Cool Spring to Lewes was later decommissioned, the tracks were removed, and the rail bed was converted to become a section of the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail.
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 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.
DelDOT awarded a $2.2 million contract to Richard E. Pierson to remove and relocate the swing bridge. 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.