It’s just a typical repair project: a small bridge that most drivers barely notice as they head down the highway, near Hardee’s and La Tonalteca in Millsboro. Here’s when people will notice: when southbound traffic has to use detours around Route 113.
After 102 years, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) says the structure is still safe but needs updating. The tiny bridge allows the highway to cross the Iron Branch, a tributary of the Indian River.
DelDOT is currently seeking public input on their proposal to tear everything up quickly and efficiency, with a two-week construction and detour plan, in the spring of 2019. If the public objects heavily, DelDOT could opt for the drawn-out, eight-month plan that would involve lane closures, rather than the detours.
“The core of this bridge is an original two-lane structure that was constructed in 1916 to carry the then-new T. Coleman DuPont Highway over Iron Branch in Millsboro,” according to DelDOT spokesperson Louise Holt. “This bridge still carries the southbound lanes of U.S. 113 daily.”
Although the original bridge was modified in 1946 and 1965 for wider shoulders and then the highway’s dualization, “The southbound portion of the bridge consists of concrete-encased steel beams and concrete abutments that are heavily deteriorated.” Holt said.
In contract, the 1965 northbound structure is still in good condition, so the northbound lanes will not be affected.
The road closure itself would occur roughly 300 feet north and south of the bridge. The local detour would wrap for two miles around Radish Road and Handy Road. The trucking detour would spread out 11 miles over Route 24/30 (Laurel Road) to Route 26 (Nine Foot Road).
Construction cost is estimated at $1.5 million, but Delaware would only pay about $300,000, while the federal government is responsible for the rest.
There were no public comments submitted at the July 26 public workshop in Millsboro, Holt said.
DelDOT has ranked Bridge 3-507 as 72nd on the 2018 DelDOT Bridge Deficiency List: “The steel beams have significant corrosion and loss of section,” and the 1916 concrete is crumbling, too. Construction would proceed faster by using precast concrete three-sided frame, instead of building on site.
“The new bridge will be similar in length to the existing bridge and will include replacements of the wingwalls. The road geometry will not change. Additionally, riprap will be placed into the streambed and along the wingwalls to protect the proposed bridge from scour and erosion of the stream channel,” DelDOT reported.
Details of the proposed project and detour are online at www.deldot.gov/information/projects/bridges/us113_BR3-507.
The comment period ends Saturday, Aug. 25, at 4 p.m. People can express their views either online or by mail, giving reasons for support of or opposition to the project.
Comments can be mailed to DelDOT Community Relations; P.O. Box 778; Dover, DE 19903 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. People may also use the online survey through the virtual workshop or call (302) 760-2080 or 1-800-652-5600 (toll-free, in Delaware only).
In the 2020s, Route 113 will be part of a bigger construction project. Although design hasn’t been funded or scheduled, Route 113 is intended to become a three-lane highway from Hardscrabble Road to Dagsboro Road. But this particular bridge falls under the DelDOT Bridge Section, while the highway widening won’t likely occur until 2026, Holt theorized.
First, DelDOT is focused on designing a northeastern bypass connecting Route 113 and Route 24, slated to begin in fall of 2023. The State and public for the past decade have aimed for a compromise on the improvements designed to increase vehicle capacity and safety.
By Laura Walter