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Crucial East Coast highway bridge closed



By RANDALL CHASE

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- Delaware transportation department officials have examined aerial images as they investigate a mountain of dirt that grew to about two stories high and 100 yards long over the past few years, possibly causing an interstate bridge just a few yards away to tilt.

Engineers think that as a contractor dumped more and more dirt next to Interstate 495 bridge, the ground shifted under the weight and caused the bridge columns to start tilting. The bridge, a bypass that helps alleviate congestion on I-95 through Wilmington, Delaware, and normally carries about 90,000 vehicles daily, has been closed since Monday. It will be at least several weeks before it is reopened.

Gov. Jack Markell planned to visit the site Thursday. As questions mounted, state officials said part of the dirt pile appeared to be on state land, and that a fence that once cordoned off the government's property had been removed.

"In 2012, there was some stuff out there but not very much; in 2013, a little more," Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said of Google Earth images showing the mound grow. "Right now obviously there's a lot more dirt."

The contractor is working with state officials to remove the dirt from the site, which he was allowed to use under an arrangement with a company that leases land next to the bridge.

"I have absolutely no idea what happened, I really don't," said James Thomas Jr., 60. "I'm not a structural engineer. I'm not a bridge engineer."

Officials have said a system to shore up and brace the bridge will have to be designed, which will take weeks. State officials do not have an estimated price tag but have indicated they might seek federal funds to help pay for the repairs.

Bhatt said officials did not know about the dirt mound until Monday, when engineers visited the bridge in response to a report received late last week. That report came from an engineer with a private company who was in the area on an unrelated project and saw cracking in the soil around the dirt pile. The engineer then spotted the leaning columns and contacted the transportation agency.

Built in 1974, the bridge is scheduled for inspection every two years and was last examined in October 2012.

Thomas, who sells the dirt for fill, said he has worked in the area around the Port of Wilmington, just down the road from the bridge, for 41 years, running a paving company and other businesses. He said no one has ever expressed concern about him storing it next to the bridge.

The DuPont Co. owns the land where the dirt is located and leases it out to a materials handing company called Port Contractors Inc.

Thomas's company, Keogh Contracting, has an arrangement with Port Contractors, which was founded by his father, to store dirt on the property.

Michael Evanko, president of Port Contractors, said the company is allowing Thomas to temporarily store the dirt being removed from underneath the bridge on another parcel just down the road.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
YourFtr June 05 2014 at 12:27 PM

Obama hasn't allocated any Infrastructure monies for bridges;
because that might have created a few jobs;
and would go against his plan to bankrupt the US
with illegal immigrants......!??

Flag Reply +68 rate up
49 replies
newteam4 June 05 2014 at 12:39 PM

Yeah, we should spend some more money in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Japan and all these other places where we have men stationed and the host countries don't pay for thier own supposed safety. Our gov't makes good deals! What a joke, we spent hundreds of billions in Afghanistan to secure the country, and the Chinese came in right behind our safety net that we paid for and made lucrative deals with the Afghan Gov't for copper, natrual gas and other lucrative mining rights. What a freakin joke! Their is nothing like protecting Chinese corporate interests with our young servicemans lives, good job congress and Mr. President!

Flag Reply +37 rate up
4 replies
unknown_individual June 05 2014 at 12:31 PM

Maybe if we didn't do so much rebuilding in Afghanistan and Iraq, we could have utilized those funds to repair our own failing infrastructure. OTOH, then those funds wouldn't have been available to contractors who promise to take some of the profits and roll it back into campaign contribution to those who brought us those two wars of choice.

Flag Reply +35 rate up
2 replies
Ellen unknown_individual June 05 2014 at 4:44 PM

I agree with you if we spent money for our own country instead of AE we would be better off but you all know OB he does what he wants

Flag Reply +7 rate up
2 replies
Cliff Ellen June 05 2014 at 7:03 PM

Ever notice the first two letters of Obama's name are B.O.. And we wonder why everything he does smells

Flag +5 rate up
fmopie Ellen June 06 2014 at 5:39 AM

You're not facing the facts, Ellen. It was George W Bush who brought us two unfunded wars and borrowed huge sums from China to fund them. It was Obama who got us out of Iraw, and who will soon get us out of Afghanistan.

Flag 0 rate up
dlong0930 unknown_individual June 05 2014 at 4:52 PM

unfortunately the laws pertaining to war and how if we destroy it we have to rebuild. I was appalled when I was told this.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
ray13666 June 05 2014 at 12:21 PM

Corruption is everywhere, from government to corporations and the very rich - the middle class does not stand a chance anymore. Elect new non-rich people into government and impose term limits, a few terms and then out.

Flag Reply +26 rate up
4 replies
andyfayer June 05 2014 at 12:28 PM

The entire area around the bridge is landfill and dumpsites. Nasty stuff. I'd expect nothing less than stupidity and incompetence from the great state of Delaware!

Flag Reply +17 rate up
5 replies
Michael June 05 2014 at 12:22 PM

WHO TOOK DOWN THE FENCE??

Flag Reply +15 rate up
sopo5 June 05 2014 at 12:37 PM

We don't have the money to maintain our bridges because we continue to send it all to other countries for their infrastructure. Oh well, I guess we could raise taxes again.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
1 reply
sandy/Rick sopo5 June 05 2014 at 4:44 PM

Paying for wars yes but also letting the 1% live here for free.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
br2jr6 June 05 2014 at 12:25 PM

sounds like somebody was on the take , these contractors are not that stupid they just act like it when they have to, I know I worked for a lot of them over the years.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
Larry June 05 2014 at 12:14 PM

Why would the state give the contractor permission to dump that much dirt next to a structure?

Do they not have engineers?

Flag Reply +10 rate up
16 replies
Randy June 05 2014 at 2:24 PM

Sounds about right for biteme's home state.... incompetence.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
thosaw Randy June 05 2014 at 4:48 PM

Who is bitem?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
dr scott kanner thosaw June 05 2014 at 5:39 PM

Biden

Flag 0 rate up
filliperogers thosaw June 05 2014 at 5:42 PM

Its bite me you silly wabbit......

Flag +1 rate up
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