By David Madden and Jan Carabeo
WILMINGTON, Del., (CBS) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and the state’s congressional delegation at the tilting I-495 bridge in Wilmington on Friday. They got an up-close look at the failing bridge and called for more transportation funding nationwide.
The word from Washington: repairs are on the fast track and the feds will foot the bill, at least in the short term.
Progress is being made at the bridge site with crews working around the clock on 12-hour shifts. New equipment arrived on site Friday, and DelDOT says crews have hit the ground running.
DelDOT says righting the road, even just temporarily, will cost roughly $20 million — $2 million is coming in the form of emergency funding from the Federal Highway Administration.
Meanwhile, DelDOT says it’s still looking into that 50,000 ton pile of dirt, which many say caused the problem.
Investigators are trying to find out how long it grew beside the bridge and what the agency can do better to prevent it from happening again.
“If we need to get out here more often, if we need to put technology up, cameras that are looking at these things,” DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt said. “I know in some of the bridges we’re building now, we’re installing sensors so they are talking to us.”
The work to shore up those pillars will take the summer and maybe longer to finish, forcing 90,000 daily drivers onto an already jammed I-95. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx insists this is at the top of his agency’s to-do list.
“This isn’t just a Delaware issue. This is a national issue. When this bridge goes down, the ability of folks to travel all the way south into Miami all the way up the eastern seaboard is affected. So it is a big deal that we get this bridge back up and going,” Foxx said.
Plans are to tap emergency funds in Washington to pay for the $20 million patch up job. They will not be affected by ongoing political debate over replenishing the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run out of money in August.
Secretary Foxx says what happened in Delaware could be a learning experience for the rest of the country, but for now he says the focus needs to be on reopening the road.
The next major event is happening in Dover next week. The Firefly Festival attracts more than 70,000 people.
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