Beaver Dam Road to be closed through spring

Residents, business owners and others who make regular use of Beaver Dam Road between Peppers Corner Road and Substation Road west of Ocean View are likely to get to know alternatives to the popular route very well in the coming months. Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) officials announced Sept. 5 that the road would be closed, effective immediately, and would remain closed until further notice. Officials said subsequently that the closure could last up to a year but announced this week that the closure would last only through the spring.

The emergency closure of Beaver Dam Road on Sept. 5 came as the result of failure of the crossroad pipe that supports a small bridge over a wetland area and creek near the bend in that section of the road, DelDOT spokeswoman Tina Shockley confirmed.

“A routine bridge inspection showed that the crossroad pipes were failing,” officials said Tuesday.

Normally, DelDOT offers an estimated completion date for such repair work, but Shockley said last week that, even though the department can usually make financial and resources available for such emergency repairs to be made in short order, the Beaver Dam Road repairs had hit a snag.

In the days that followed the inspection, officials said, DelDOT was advised that, because Beaver Dam Ditch falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), various environmental agencies would need to be notified, and environmental approvals obtained before work could occur in the area.

“Because of the wetlands there, we need an environmental permit to do any work,” Shockley said last week, referring to the process of obtaining a permit for construction in a federally designated wetlands area, such as the one near that bridge.

That discovery initially led officials in the department to notify residents and property owners in the area that the process of repairing the bridge and reopening it to traffic could take up to a year.

“Fortunately, it was determined that the environmental permit process is minimal, although DelDOT must allow sufficient time for notification and comments from environmental agencies,” officials said Tuesday. “Following that, DelDOT must work with the existing utility companies, acquire the necessary right-of-way and easements. Finally, maintenance forces will be replacing the two existing corrugated metal pipes with two 5-foot-diameter plastic pipes under the bridge structure. Since this work will be taking place in the winter months, DelDOT’s timetable also allows for weather-related delays.”

The result is that, instead of taking up to a year, DelDOT officials now say the project should be completed in the spring.

“While this road cannot be repaired as quickly as motorists and DelDOT would like, DelDOT realizes the significant impact this closure has had on the traveling public, and will work as quickly as possible to reopen the road,” they said Tuesday.

During the closure, local access will be maintained for residents and emergency vehicles up to the bridge structure. No one will be allowed to cross the bridge structure. Detour routes are posted and motorists are being strongly advised to plan their travels through this area before heading there.

“We’re trying to make sure we have access for local residents,” Shockley assured motorists about the Beaver Dam Road closure.

But residents and patrons of the few businesses along the stretch of road have had their fair share of headaches as they navigate around the out-of-commission segment.

In addition to a number of homes, the area is also home to the Cozy Critters daycare center, adding some hassles for dozens of parents who drop off and pick up their children from the center daily. A number of school bus stops are also located on the road, as are farms and a kennel/pet grooming business.

Many others have traditionally used the road as a connection between Central Avenue and Route 17 — particularly to avoid traffic-plagued Route 26, which is now reduced to one lane for sewer construction that is expected to continue until January.

All those motorists may all have to find a new route that could become their regular way of travel through the spring.

While the Indian River Inlet Bridge has been the primary focus of attention to maintenance and repair of bridges in the area, crossroad pipe failure has been a common reason for road closures in the area, including the closure earlier this year of Route 17 between Roxana and Selbyville, which has since been repaired and reopened.

As of July 2008, 97 percent of DelDOT bridges were listed as structurally sufficient, with approximately 2.7 percent of its bridges considered structurally deficient. DelDOT officials emphasize that the term “structurally deficient” is simply an engineering term that means there is a component on a bridge that needs attention. All 40 structurally-deficient bridges were either being worked on in July or were planned to be worked on. Of the 40 deficient bridges, 17 were roads over pipes or culverts.