On Oct. 30, Gov. Jack Markell announced that after much concern, it has been determined that the Charles W. Cullen Bridge, also known as the Indian River Inlet Bridge, did not sustain any structural damage during Hurricane Sandy.
“One of our priorities had to do with the structural integrity of this bridge,” said Markell. “It has been visually inspected by a DelDOT bridge engineer, who has found no damage.”
Markell said that particular span of Route 1 has been covered by sand before, and that it will be corrected in the fastest, safest way possible.
“We’ll get through this. This is caused by the breach of the barrier dune on the north side of the bridge. That’s been an ongoing concern for years and is something that longtime residents know.”
Although the new bridge and roadway fared well during the storm, the old bridge’s roadway did not.
“The abandoned roadway failed during the storm, that debris will be removed,” he said.
“It’s through the vision of former governors and our current governor that we got the new bridge in place,” said DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt. “We opened it earlier this year, and it just goes to show how important infrastructure is, both to the state and our tourism community, but also in times like these where if we had not had the new bridge in place, we would be talking about a lot different story right now.”
As for recovering and removing all of the broken pieces of asphalt, Bhatt said his department will be working diligently to ensure it is done to the best of their ability.
“That’s why we have them working right now at low tide, because we have all of this asphalt up out because it’s an oil product, so we don’t want that sitting in the ocean,” he said. “We’ll go through a couple of low tide cycles, we’ll get that up, we’ll pick up all the smaller pieces and then once that’s done we can build the dune back up.”
Over a million tons of sand, that were once the dunes along part of Route 1, now covers the roadway leading to the bridge.
“The approach road does remain intact but it is covered with sand and debris,” said Markell.
State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf stressed that the reason the state was so adamant about residents evacuating was because of the damage that could have been and was caused by Hurricane Sandy.
“I want everybody to look where you’re standing,” he said. “This is an example of the devastating power of Mother Nature. This is why we were trying to tell everybody to get out of town, go to a shelter, go somewhere safe. What you’re standing on right now is proof. If you stay and tempt Mother Nature, you’re going to lose.”
Currently, members from DelDOT, DNREC, The Army Corps of Engineers and the Delaware National Guard are working around the clock to remove the sand from the road, which at points completely covers the metal roadway medians.
“We have to take these millions of tons of sand and put them back on the dune,” explained Jim Westhoff, DelDOT community relations officer.
The state will be working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild the dunes along Route 1, to ensure that the coastline is once again protected.
“One of the reasons why we still have a boardwalk, why we still have beaches, why we still have dry homes and businesses in Bethany and Dewey and all the way up to Lewes is because of the great work the Army Corps has done,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “This bridge is only as good as the dunes and the investments that we’re going to be making in the days to come.”
Markell added that the walkway underneath the bridge had also been damaged and would remain closed.
“The pedestrian walkway that travels under the bridge will be closed indefinitely and will be until we assess with DNREC what can be done to restore some of these dunes.”
Markell and other state officials flew over the coastline of Delaware to assess flooding and roadway debris, on their way to the Cullen Bridge and were pleased, for the most part, with what they saw.
“Overall, we certainly faired better than what the forecast had predicted,” said Markell. “And we certainly fared better than some surrounding states… We did suffer some damage and particularly you can see that here in Sussex County. As we flew over, we saw around Fenwick and west Bethany some areas that were submerged.”
Markell added that once the water recedes state agencies will step in to assist with the damage.
“The storm is not over yet,” added DNREC Sec. Collin O’Mara. “There are actually westerly winds that are coming through pushing a little part of the Assawoman Bay, the lower part of the inland bays into these communities. The water has to be able to drain… that’ll happen over the next couple of days through these tide cycles.”
Markell said it was too early to say how much damage was done to the state, or how much money it will take, but said that he had spoken with President Barak Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and was assured that Delaware would have aid.
“The president’s message today was powerful, because what he said to all the governors and mayors on the phone, ‘if you’re having a problem I want you to personally call me at the White House. I’ll be here to take your call. I don’t want any red tape. I don’t want any bureaucracy. We are going to do everything we can to help you.’”
Carper added that the help organizations like the American Red Cross, which housed over 1,200 Delawareans in shelters, was invaluable.
“The Red Cross ran these shelters for over a thousand people. They fed them, made sure they were safe, they were dry and warm. Even some took pets in.”
Major General Francis D. Vavala is an Army National Guard, whose troops were mobilized, commended the soldiers for their work.
“I would just like to commend the service and sacrifice of the men and women of our Delaware National Guard, from the preparation stage all the way down to the recovery stage —t hey did a great job.”
“We are just so grateful for the incredible emergency response community that came together throughout Delaware over the last few days,” added Markell.