Last weekend the Charles W. Cullen Bridge, spanning across the Indian River Inlet, reopened to traffic following its closure due to Hurricane Sandy.
Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) Secretary Shailen Bhatt announced that despite rumors that the bridge was damaged during the storm, the Cullen Bridge was not compromised.
“I want to stress that before, during and after the storm, the Indian River Inlet Bridge itself was safe, it was not at risk,” said Bhatt. “The bridge itself was built to withstand storm energy far in excess of what we have experienced.”
Although the bridge itself was unharmed during the storm, the barrier dunes parallel to northbound Route 1 were pushed onto the roadway.
“This area had major flooding during the storm and there was a lot of debris and sand that was washed over it. The roads on the northern side was covered with approximately 650,000 cubic feet of sand,” said Bhatt. Noting it was the equivalent of 1.4 million bags of sand, “We have moved almost all of that.”
He added that 25 pieces of equipment supplied from DelDOT, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the Sussex County Conservation District and Delaware National Guard have been working nonstop since Oct. 30 to clear the roadway of the sand and debris.
“Most of the remaining work on the road requires a slower pace. This includes cleaning storm ditches and grates, clearing debris away from guard rails,” he explained.
Bhatt said he had met with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara and other officials to find a way to protect Route 1 from erosion that could be caused by future storms.
“We’re okay with water washing over our roads, what we don’t want the water undermining our roads. Our goal is to get that work done as soon as possible,” he said.
Bhatt said that approximately 1,000 feet of steel-sheet piling will be installed along the ocean-side of northbound Route 1 as part of their protective efforts.
“It’s corrugated iron and the purpose of it is to deflect wave energy,” he explained. “There are many states that deal with infrastructure issues in combination with storm events up and down the coast. This is something that Florida DOT has used to protect many of their bridges and approaches.”
Bhatt said the piling would not be visible once it is placed in the sand.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel here. Essentially, when in place you won’t be able to see it. The point is for it to, if the water is washing onto the roadway. It will suspend its energy onto the sheet piling as opposed to the road.”
It has not been announced as to when the pilings will be completely installed.