By John Ostapkovich and Jan Carabeo

WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) — Despite a full-court press to repair it, a closed section of Interstate 495 in Wilmington is likely to be closed all summer.

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Delaware transportation secretary Shailen Bhatt (photo below) says he’s assembled a team with the knowledge and experience to fix the tilting bridge over the Christina River (see related story).   But, he notes, it will cost at least $20 million and take until Labor Day to get even half the lanes open.

“[We’ll] Open the southbound lanes first because there is less damage on that side and the northbound lanes potentially a month later,” Bhatt said.


(Delaware transportation secretary Shailen Bhatt.  Photo by John Ostapkovich)

(Delaware transportation secretary Shailen Bhatt. Photo by John Ostapkovich)


The plan involves planting new supports down into the bedrock under the river bed, using powerful jacks to level the span, and, in some cases, removing and replacing the structures immediately under the bridge surface after traffic is again rolling above.

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There is still the possibility, Bhatt adds, that they will discover their plan won’t work as envisioned.

“We have identified a small chance, but not insignificant, that maybe we get a couple weeks into this and decide we’ve got to go back and we’re just going to have to build a new bridge,” he said.

Which of course would cost more and take longer — up to a year.  Until I-495 reopens, DelDOT is mounting a communications push to highlight alternate routes.

The next big event in the area happens next week. The Firefly Festival in Dover runs June 19th through the 22nd, attracting more than 70,000 people.

DelDOT is working with the organizers to make festival-goers aware that they may need to take alternate routes.


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