The following is a letter from Delaware Secretary of Transportation to the people of Delaware concerning the I-95 project:
I-95 through Wilmington was completed in 1964, and like any 50-year-old structure, requires maintenance and repair. Beginning in 2021, the Delaware Department of Transportation will be doing just that. While still several years away, the project has recently become a topic of discussion in the media and the broader community, and I want to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what this project will accomplish.
Much like maintaining a home, this project is about taking care of our existing infrastructure. For example, the project includes removing and replacing the top layer of concrete on the bridge decks, replacing concrete traffic barriers and roadway expansion joints, and making steel and concrete repairs to the numerous bridges that span the corridor from north of the Brandywine River Bridge to the I-495 interchange. While there will be lane closures throughout the project, our intent is to avoid any long-term full closure of the roadway.
Community involvement will be critical to this project, and we will be engaged with residents and the business community during all phases of the project. We know this will be a significant project that will impact thousands of motorists and city residents, and have already created an advisory group comprised of residents, city and county officials, and the business community to ensure we perform this work as efficiently and safely as possible.
Before this project begins, there are a number of projects in and around the city that are currently or will soon be under way in anticipation of motorists using alternate routes while the interstate is under construction. These projects include the new $48 million Christina River Bridge and approach roads at the Wilmington Riverfront, which will provide easier access to Route 13 and I-495, approximately $40 million in paving and ADA improvements to numerous city streets, as well as multiple maintenance projects on I-495 to ensure it is ready to absorb a large portion of traffic that would normally utilize I-95. The new $10 million Wilmington Transit Center also will expand public transportation options and provide needed amenities to support customers. In total, DelDOT is investing more than $100 million to improve Wilmington's infrastructure in advance of the I-95 rehabilitation project.
Recently, some members of the community have begun advocating for the capping of I-95, where the interstate would be covered to allow for redevelopment to take place above the road. A similar project estimated at $225 million is being planned in Philadelphia to create 11 acres of new public space over I-95. However, DelDOT is not considering a project of this size and scope at this time as studying the feasibility and securing funding for this project would prevent us from moving forward with the rehabilitation project as currently planned. We cannot delay the planned rehabilitation project as further deterioration of the road deck and structures will only increase the amount of work needed in the future and escalate the cost well beyond the current estimate of $200 million for the project.
As the planning and preparation for this project moves forward, we will continue to engage with the community to ensure we are addressing concerns related to the rehabilitation project and taking the necessary steps to complete this important and needed infrastructure investment.