Updated: Delaware Bridge Damage May Have Developed Rapidly - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Updated: Delaware Bridge Damage May Have Developed Rapidly

Posted: Updated:
DelDOT crews are shown on the closed I-495 bridge in Delaware. (Photo: AP) DelDOT crews are shown on the closed I-495 bridge in Delaware. (Photo: AP)
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP)- An engineer who first noticed that columns supporting a major interstate highway bridge in Delaware were tilting said he visited the site shortly after the bridge was closed and saw that they had shifted even farther.
   
The account of geotechnical engineer Dave Charles in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press suggests the potentially catastrophic problem may have unfolded quickly over a short period of time.
   
Charles said he told state transportation officials May 29 about possible problems with the bridge on Interstate 495 in Wilmington. He visited the site again Tuesday, a day after officials closed the bridge, and took another look.
   
"It was markedly different on Tuesday than it was on Thursday afternoon," he said. "I was surprised. There was a lot of movement."
   
Asked how officials did not notice until this week that there was a problem with the bridge, Delaware Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt also suggested the damage may have happened rapidly.
   
"The evidence, as it builds, is pointing toward a shorter-duration event, a rapid movement," he said.
   
That theory, coupled with Charles' observations, raises questions about why Delaware transportation officials waited until Monday to send crews to check the tilting bridge, which they then ordered closed immediately.
   
"I guess the question is, 'Should we have closed it sooner?'" Bhatt said at a news conference earlier this week. "When we got the appropriate information that there was a significant event going on, we closed the bridge out of an abundance of caution."
   
Charles said after he and a colleague working on an unrelated project near the bridge noticed May 29 that it appeared to be tilting, he sent matter-of-fact emails with cellphone photographs about 6 p.m. that day to an employee of the Delaware transportation department's bridge unit. Charles said the employee, whom he declined to name, acknowledged about 90 minutes later that he had received the emails.
   
"I think the person who received it took it seriously," Charles said.
   
State officials have said for days that they were first informed about a possible "anomaly" with the bridge late on May 30.
   
Asked Thursday when Delaware officials learned of the potential problem, Bhatt said in an email that "a low-level contact was made after hours" May 29 but not relayed to senior management until May 30, "at which point it became actionable information."
   
"Once alerted to the potential problem on Friday, our senior engineers asked for an inspection on Monday," he wrote. "In our view, DelDOT did not have information it could reliably act on until Monday - the same day that I was informed."
   
Engineers working with Delaware officials suspect a mound of dirt a contractor dumped next to the bridge, partly on the government's property, over several years. They think the weight of the dirt shifted the ground underneath the span and caused four pairs of columns to tilt.
   
Crews replaced a fence that previously marked the state's property. Its disappearance was discovered this week. Bhatt also ordered the inspection of other state bridges for similar problems.
   
The bridge, which normally carries an average of 90,000 vehicles on the I-495 bypass around Wilmington, will be closed indefinitely as engineers figure out how to brace it. Most of the detoured traffic is on already-clogged I-95, which passes through downtown.
   
Democratic Gov. Jack Markell visited Thursday. He said the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost of permanent repairs to the bridge and had already approved $2 million in emergency funds. The cost of fixing the bridge hasn't been determined.
   
"This is unbelievable," said Markell as he examined walls separating the northbound and southbound lanes of the bridge. The walls are normally level with each other but are now separated in height in some spots by up to 18 inches.
   
Markell said he was grateful Charles notified the state of the problem.
   
"Thank goodness he, with his skills, and his knowledge, and his powers of observation, were there," Markell said. "Based on what I know, we certainly owe him a debt of gratitude."
   
Charles doesn't consider himself a hero.
   
"I don't know whether we saved lives or not," he said. "Somebody else might have found it later. I think we did what professionals with our type of training need to do."


  • Delmarvawide NewsDelmarvawide NewsMore>>

  • Dine and Dash Suspects Arrested

    Dine and Dash Suspects Arrested

    Friday, June 23 2017 11:54 PM EDT2017-06-24 03:54:56 GMT
    Friday, June 23 2017 11:56 PM EDT2017-06-24 03:56:32 GMT
    Two people were arrested for leaving before paying at two Georgetown restaurants.Two people were arrested for leaving before paying at two Georgetown restaurants.

    A Dover man and a Smyrna woman were arrested after they dined and dashed at two Georgetown restaurants two days in a row, according to the Georgetown Police Department.

    More

    A Dover man and a Smyrna woman were arrested after they dined and dashed at two Georgetown restaurants two days in a row, according to the Georgetown Police Department.

    More
  • Car Crash Kills Milford Man

    Car Crash Kills Milford Man

    Friday, June 23 2017 9:45 PM EDT2017-06-24 01:45:41 GMT
    Friday, June 23 2017 11:44 PM EDT2017-06-24 03:44:30 GMT
    (Photo Credit: MGN)(Photo Credit: MGN)

    A fatal motor vehicle accident claimed the life of a Milford man on Tuesday after he was listed in critical condition earlier this week, according to Delaware State Police. 

    More

    A fatal motor vehicle accident claimed the life of a Milford man on Tuesday after he was listed in critical condition earlier this week, according to Delaware State Police. 

    More
  • The City of Salisbury Celebrates the Life of Brooke Mulford

    The City of Salisbury Celebrates the Life of Brooke Mulford

    Friday, June 23 2017 10:16 PM EDT2017-06-24 02:16:31 GMT
    Friday, June 23 2017 10:16 PM EDT2017-06-24 02:16:31 GMT

    The City of Salisbury celebrated the life of 12-year-old Brooke Mulford Friday night. 

    More

    The City of Salisbury celebrated the life of 12-year-old Brooke Mulford Friday night. 

    More
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Dine and Dash Suspects Arrested

    Dine and Dash Suspects Arrested

    Friday, June 23 2017 11:54 PM EDT2017-06-24 03:54:56 GMT
    Friday, June 23 2017 11:56 PM EDT2017-06-24 03:56:32 GMT
    Two people were arrested for leaving before paying at two Georgetown restaurants.Two people were arrested for leaving before paying at two Georgetown restaurants.

    A Dover man and a Smyrna woman were arrested after they dined and dashed at two Georgetown restaurants two days in a row, according to the Georgetown Police Department.

    More

    A Dover man and a Smyrna woman were arrested after they dined and dashed at two Georgetown restaurants two days in a row, according to the Georgetown Police Department.

    More
  • Car Crash Kills Milford Man

    Car Crash Kills Milford Man

    Friday, June 23 2017 9:45 PM EDT2017-06-24 01:45:41 GMT
    Friday, June 23 2017 11:44 PM EDT2017-06-24 03:44:30 GMT
    (Photo Credit: MGN)(Photo Credit: MGN)

    A fatal motor vehicle accident claimed the life of a Milford man on Tuesday after he was listed in critical condition earlier this week, according to Delaware State Police. 

    More

    A fatal motor vehicle accident claimed the life of a Milford man on Tuesday after he was listed in critical condition earlier this week, according to Delaware State Police. 

    More
  • Saturday Events Will Cause Traffic Delays on DE 1

    Saturday Events Will Cause Traffic Delays on DE 1

    Friday, June 23 2017 11:45 AM EDT2017-06-23 15:45:10 GMT
    Friday, June 23 2017 11:45 AM EDT2017-06-23 15:45:10 GMT

    Two funeral processions are expected to cause traffic delays Saturday on Route 1 in the area of Little Heaven and outside of Milford. 

    More

    Two funeral processions are expected to cause traffic delays Saturday on Route 1 in the area of Little Heaven and outside of Milford. 

    More
  • Most Popular VideosMost Popular VideosMore>>

  • City of Salisbury Celebrates the Life of Brooke Mulford

    City of Salisbury Celebrates the Life of Brooke Mulford

    The City of Salisbury celebrated the life of 12-year-old Brooke Mulford Friday night.

    Hundreds of balloons were released into the sky from James Bennett High School Friday night in honor of Brooke Mulford.

    Brooke battled neuroblastoma for nearly 8 years and passed away on June 12th.

    More

    The City of Salisbury celebrated the life of 12-year-old Brooke Mulford Friday night.

    Hundreds of balloons were released into the sky from James Bennett High School Friday night in honor of Brooke Mulford.

    Brooke battled neuroblastoma for nearly 8 years and passed away on June 12th.

    More
  • Banner Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Showell

    A banner plane had to make an emergency landing in Showell Friday afternoon after reportedly running out of fuel.

    Maryland State Police say no injuries were reported when 23-year-old Austin Kiehl of Montana landed the single engine Piper off Peerless Road near Route 113.

    More

    A banner plane had to make an emergency landing in Showell Friday afternoon after reportedly running out of fuel.

    Maryland State Police say no injuries were reported when 23-year-old Austin Kiehl of Montana landed the single engine Piper off Peerless Road near Route 113.

    More
  • New App Launched to Track Assateague Ponies

    New App Launched to Track Assateague Ponies

    The Assateague Island Alliance has newly launched their free app to track wild ponies in both the State and National Seashore Park. With a simple photo taken from a smart phone, users can identify the animals.

    There are no tags or brands put on the horses. The only way that their location is marked is through the phone's GPS. You can add characteristics of the pony so that others can easily identify them.

    More

    The Assateague Island Alliance has newly launched their free app to track wild ponies in both the State and National Seashore Park. With a simple photo taken from a smart phone, users can identify the animals.

    There are no tags or brands put on the horses. The only way that their location is marked is through the phone's GPS. You can add characteristics of the pony so that others can easily identify them.

    More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices