A $172 million, five-year capital improvement plan began on the Delaware Memorial Bridge this week.
The first phase of the project will include the repairing and repaving of 2.5 miles of Interstate 295 where it approaches the bridge on the Delaware side in Wilmington, and should be complete by December, according to Associated Press reports.
Project coordinators are hoping to postpone any lane closures on the highway until after Labor Day and the end of the summer beach traffic to avoid as many traffic delays as possible. As the repairs are made, lane closures will alternate between the north and southbound lanes between September and May 2001, but three of the four lanes will always remain open.
John Jones, director of engineering for the Delaware River & Bay Authority, which operates the bridge and I-295, says construction crews will be working night shifts and double shifts to complete the first phase as quickly as possible.
Traffic on the bridge and I-295 has doubled since the roads were built in 1968. Tolls on the bridge were hiked this year to help pay for the repairs.
The authority says it plans to widen the median and shoulders of I-295, and eventually add a third lane for northbound traffic and replace seven overpasses leading up to the bridge.
The second phase of the project is expected to start in 2002, and will include the repaving of the interchange of I-295 and U.S. Route 13.