The historic Lewes railroad swing bridge will be removed from its crossing over the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, where it has been since 1916, at approximately 1 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 1.
The 230-ton bridge will be lifted by a crane and placed on a flatbed truck to make a 5-mph trip to American Legion Road. Several area roads will experience detours during this operation. The truck's route is as follows: Gills Neck Road to Kings Highway, right onto Freeman Highway over the bridge to Cape Henlopen Drive, then left to Savannah Road and another left onto American Legion Road.
On Friday, Dec. 3, the bridge will be lifted again onto its new foundation at a display area where American Legion Road intersects the rail trail. The entire process of removal and placement will be recorded by a DelDOT drone due to the bridge’s historical significance.
The removal is necessary due to settlement that has occurred in the foundation, resulting in the bridge being declared unsafe for use and cost-prohibitive to repair, said Cathy Tatman, Lewes Junction Railroad & Bridge Association director.
As a result, the train tracks were removed between Harbeson and Lewes, and the railroad was decommissioned in 2017. The rail bed has since been converted to the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail.
The association was formed to advocate to save the bridge from being scrapped. Through the cooperation of the Delaware Department of Transportation, the City of Lewes and the association, a plan was developed to identify an area where the the bridge could be displayed and interpreted. Additionally, the association is making plans to acquire and display railroad cars on a preserved section of track between the Lewes Public Library and the Margaret H. Rollins Community Center.
The bridge is one of the last remaining hand-operated swing bridges in the country. It is also a rare bob-tailed bridge, meaning one end is longer than the other, Tatman said.
DelDOT awarded a $2.2 million contract to Richard E. Pierson Construction Co. 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.
DelDOT will coordinate the project; the City of Lewes will own the bridge, and the association will maintain it.
More information about the association can be found at lewesjunctionrr.org, where donations can be made to support its work.