Officials Announce April Reopening, But Only If “Best Case Scenario” Prevails
The Delaware River Bridge, which connects the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, is slated to remain closed at least another eight weeks, officials announced Friday. The bridge was shut to civilian traffic on Friday, January 20 when a large crack was discovered in a support truss. The decision to keep the bridge closed was made by a joint engineering task force being co-led by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The agencies jointly own and manage the DRB.
Jacking And Realigning Bridge To Take At Least One Month
Weight loads shifted considerably, officials say, when this crack opened in a support truss of the DRB, which has been closed to traffic since January 20, 2017. The bridge now must be realigned before the fracture can be repaired.
That means the next several weeks will be devoted to installing temporary towers and hydraulic jacks to realign the bridge. The groundwork for the jacking towers began last week, authorities said. Steel-pipe pilings are being installed underground, according to officials, that will support 80-foot towers. Those towers will be carefully jacked into position to realign the bridge, but that will not happen until early March, at least, according to authorities.
However, officials admit they do not know whether the rest of the bridge can support a regular traffic flow, and authorities said they will not be able to determine that until the jacking process is completed.
“The goal of the jacking operation is to return the bridge to its original position and allow us to complete a permanent splice of the fracture,” said Brad Heigel, Chief Engineer for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. “As the jacking operation occurs, and load is transferred within the bridge, instrumentation will monitor the actual loads, stresses and displacements, which will be compared to estimated outcomes from computer models.”
Agency Heads Say They Hope For “Best Case Scenario”, But Sound Cautionary Tone
“Under the best case scenario, the bridge will return to its original position and the construction team will be able to install a permanent repair splice on the fractured steel member,” officials with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority wrote in a prepared statement. “It is possible, however, that the process will reveal the need for a [sic] more complex repairs or possibly even replacement of the entire structure, in which case the closure would last longer.”
“We want to get this bridge reopened to traffic as soon as we are safely able to do so,” said New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Richard T. Hammer. Hammer also serves as chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority board.
“We understand the inconvenience this closure creates for tens of thousands of drivers every day,” he said. “We are working around the clock to get it reopened. But we won’t allow a single car to cross that bridge until we are absolutely certain that it is safe.”
Alternate routes remain in effect for traffic crossing between the two states’ turnpikes. Authorities say the DRB carries an average of 42-thousand vehicles per day across the now-disabled span.
The PTC announced a tentative repair timetable, which authorities say represents the best case scenario for reopening the bridge to traffic. That timetable is as follows:
Estimated Bridge Repair Timetable
- Feb. 6 – Install jacking towers.
- Feb. 13 – Install jacking towers, instrumentation and structural reinforcement required for jacking.
- Feb. 20 – Install instrumentation and structural reinforcement required for jacking.
- Feb. 27 – Install structural reinforcement required for jacking.
- March 6 – Perform jacking.
- March 13 – Install permanent repair splice.
- March 20 – Perform load testing.
- March 27 – Demobilize jacking towers.
Eastbound Detour (Pennsylvania to New Jersey)
PA Turnpike motorists heading east into New Jersey should use this revised alternate route: Exit at the Bensalem Interchange, #351 in Bucks County. Follow U.S. Route 1 north, to I-95 north, to I-295, south, to I-195 east. Take Exit 6 on I-195, and reenter the NJ Turnpike. Source: PA Turnpike Commission.
Westbound Detour (New Jersey to Pennsylvania)
NJTP drivers heading west into Pennsylvania will need to use either Interstate 78, Interstate 295, or the Burlington-Bristol Bridge. Source: New Jersey Turnpike Authority.