Public to receive info on bridge at open house

As construction continues in the new Indian River Inlet Bridge – right now, specifically the piles that will be erected on either side of the new bridge – passersby should notice rapid progress on the project in the upcoming months. And next weekend, the public is being invited to the Indian River Inlet Bridge Open House and Site Tour, where many questions will be answered and the public can watch the construction while learning about the project.

Both the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and Skanska USA Civil Southeast Inc. – the company contracted to construct the bridge – are coordinating the open house-style workshop and site tour, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the DNREC parking lot directly across from the DelDOT Field Office on the north side of the inlet.

“It’s been hard for people to grasp all that’s been going on in the project and everything that’s about to take place,” said Andrew Bing of Kramer and Associates.

The current stage of construction is completing the groundworks and foundation for most of the new bridge’s supports.

“As with any bridge of this magnitude,” said Jay Erwin Jr., Skanska’s project manager, “you need a strong foundation. We’re nearing completion of that foundation in these next weeks. We’re really moving forward. The landscape has been changing every day.”

The current inlet bridge has stood since 1965, and the anticipated 31-month process to complete the new 2,600-foot-long, cable-stay bridge is expected to be done by the summer of 2011.

“Our contract completion runs through July 2011,” said Erwin, “but we expect to have the new bridge open to traffic by April 2011.”

The $150 million project, he noted, is currently slightly ahead of schedule and right on budget, and could finish at just under that budgeted amount.

The bridge is currently being constructed from both the north and south ends, for the most effective and speedy construction.

“It’s a great motivator, too,” said Erwin. “Each side is working hard at seeing who can complete projects faster and come in under budgets.”

The workshop next weekend is designed to inform the public about the inner workings of the project and offer specific information about the bridge, including the design-build process, pile driving and concrete, pylon forms including reinforced steel, falsework structure, the cable-stay erection system and more. A dozen informational stations will be set up, with engineers and project managers on hand to answer questions about the bridge construction’s progress.

“We probably get calls and people stopping by, asking 30 questions a day about the project,” said Erwin, “and we want to have a way to inform everybody.”

Representatives from the University of Delaware will also be present at the open house and site tour to discuss the monitoring capabilities of the new bridge. There will also be a final station with a trolley that will provide a guided and narrated tour of the construction site.

The Open House Public Workshop and Site Tour will be held, rain or shine, at the DNREC parking lot, accessed via Inlet Road on the north side of the bridge. There will be an opportunity for the public to provide written comments on the bridge construction project. Comments will be received at the workshop, or can be mailed before Oct. 30 to DelDOT Public Relations, P.O. Box 778, Dover, DE 19903.