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DelDOT Plans to Keep Road Open as It Replaces Bridge Onto Fenwick Island

Thu February 02, 2023 - Northeast Edition #5
Ocean City Dispatch


Work will be completed from barges and a causeway in the waterway. (Map courtesy of DelDOT)
Work will be completed from barges and a causeway in the waterway. (Map courtesy of DelDOT)

The replacement of the Delaware Highway 54 bridge, connecting the mainland to Fenwick Island, was the subject of a public workshop in the beach town on Jan. 31

During the forum, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) presented plans and timelines for a bridge replacement project along Del. 54/Lighthouse Road in Fenwick Island, a community at the southeastern tip of the state along the Atlantic Ocean.

The Ocean City Dispatch reported Feb. 1 that while the work is expected to take place over the course of two years, Nick Dean, the project manager for the transportation agency, said travelers should expect minimal disruptions.

"The way we're going to handle it is instead of full detours, we're going to build it in phases," he told the news outlet in Ocean City, Md., just south of Fenwick Island. "So, in theory, you won't feel the effects too much."

Dean explained that the existing bridge is nearing the end of its useful service life, and with several large cracks and exposed reinforcement, DelDOT is looking to replace the bridge entirely.

"We've pretty much done everything we can from a rehabilitation standpoint to extend the life of the bridge," he said. "Unfortunately, it's in a corrosive environment with things like tidal water and Jet Ski spray which has exacerbated the deterioration."

DelDOT to Focus on Building One Half at a Time

Dean and other DelDOT representatives presented Fenwick Island community members with plans for a construction project that would start in the fall of 2024 and end in May 2026. Dean noted, while adding that work would pause during the summer months when tourist season is at its height.

"We're going to eliminate half the [current bridge's] spans and double the span length, so it's going to go from 40 ft. to 80 ft.," he explained. "It will open up that waterway a little bit, so it should be better for navigation and recreation."

During the first phase of construction, DelDOT's crews will construct a temporary sidewalk and modify the existing layout to support two lanes of traffic before starting demolition and construction of the first half of the bridge. During the second phase, traffic will shift to the newly built portion of the bridge while the second half is demolished and rebuilt.

"There will be some impacts, obviously, because we are working in a construction zone," Dean said in speaking to the Dispatch. "But the idea is we're going to maintain two lanes while building the first half of the bridge. Then once May rolls around, and its beach season, we'll pause. Once the season ends, we'll pick back up and shift traffic onto the new part of the bridge and demo the remaining [structure], build the second half, and tie them together."

Simply put, the good news for Fenwick Island residents, merchants, and beachgoers is Del. 54 and the bridge will stay open throughout the course of the work, according to the Ocean City news source.

"With businesses on two corners, a property owner on the other corner, and utilities that straddle each side, the [bridge] site constraints are a bit difficult," Dean said. "We are also trying to navigate the beach traffic.

"The solution we came up with does allow for normal traffic in both directions to be maintained," he continued. "Our hope there, while we're in construction season, is that delays will be minimal. And obviously once we leave during the beach season traffic should return to normal."

Dean said the recent workshop marked the first step in the public input process as DelDOT continues through the design and planning phase.

"If anyone sees something and they have questions or concerns, they can reach out and we can hopefully alleviate those concerns," he said.

Dean noted that design plans and contact information about the Del. 54 bridge replacement project can be found on the DelDOT website at www.deldot.gov.




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