Spring to fall 2019: In-stream work restrictions delay Iron Branch bridge project

DelDOT State Bridge Engineer Jason Hastings shares information on the Iron Branch bridge project. Looking on are town of Millsboro vice-mayor Michelle Truitt, DelDOT project engineer Jonathan Karam and State Rep. Rich Collins.

MILLSBORO – It’s spring ahead to the fall of 2019 for U.S. 113 Iron Branch bridge rehabilitation in Millsboro.

Delaware’s Department of Transportation has decided to push back the scheduled accelerated bridge contract impacting southbound lanes of DuPont Boulevard from March 2019 to the fall of 2019 due to National Marine Fisheries Service restrictions governing in-stream work.

DelDOT had initially pegged a March 2019 time-frame for the two-week project, which consists of removing concrete encased beams originally constructed in 1916 and replacing them with a precast reinforced concrete frame.

That time-frame changed with National Marine Fisheries Service restrictions.

“They put a blanket time of year restriction on all of Delaware’s streams from March 1 to June 30,” said Jason Hastings, DelDOT State Bridge Engineer during a July 26 public workshop at the Millsboro Town Center. “We can’t do work in the stream during that time. In order to do this project, we have to be in the stream.”

“From March 1 to June 30 we cannot be in the water working because of the fish that migrate up from the ocean,” said Craig Stevens, DelDOT bridge design engineer. “You can get a waiver on that, but you have to do a study. And when do you do the study? During the migration period. And there is not enough time. So, what we decided to do was move it to October, which may be a blessing because we have a better chance of the hot mix plants being open, the weather tends to be better and the traffic number is a little less in October than spring. It seems like a more conservative, better way to go.”

DelDOT project engineer Jonathan Karam, right, shares information on the U.S. 113 bridge project on the Iron Branch. At left is DelDOT engineer Jason Stevens.

DelDOT learned of the marine fisheries restrictions this spring. “We have been working back and forth with them,” said Mr. Hastings. “We were hoping we would get a waiver around it because it was a new blanket policy. Unfortunately, all of the options that they gave us just were not acceptable from a construction standpoint.”

“Actually, this is a silver lining,” said Mr. Hastings. “The fall generally has better weather than early spring. And we think this actually increases our chances of getting done on time or early.”

During the project, both southbound lanes will be closed for approximately two weeks in the immediate area of the bridge over the Iron Branch stream. This will keep crossovers open for access to businesses along US 113.

Northbound traffic on US 113 will not be affected.

Southbound traffic will be diverted from the immediate area via two detour routes.

The detour for non-truck traffic encompasses Radish Road, Hickory Hill Road and Handy Road. The detour measures about 1.9 miles with an estimated four-minute time, possibly several more minutes during heavy traffic flow periods common in the Millsboro area.

The detour for trucks – such as 18-wheelers and semis – is substantially longer, utilizing SR 24 to SR 30 to SR 26, which intersects US 113 in Dagsboro.

Total estimated cost of the project remains about $1.5 million. That includes design, construction, engineering, inspection and contingencies, said Mr. Hastings.

DelDOT chose the ABC route over a traditional contract that would involve extensive temporary paving, traffic disruption and residential and commercial inconvenience.

Complete lane closures in the accelerated option create enclosed workspace promoting greater worker safety.

The six-month delay will not pose any structural safety hazard, DelDOT says. “It is at a place where we need to replace it, but an extra six months is not going to create any safety issues,” said Mr. Stevens.

DelDOT engineers are confident detour inconvenience will be limited to a couple weeks.

“Two weeks, in and out,” said Jonathan Karam, DelDOT’s project engineer.

The ABC contract includes incentives and dis-incentives.

“We have a certain number of days in the contract where they (contractors) will be required to get it done. If they miss it, and it’s late, they get assessed a penalty for each day that they are late. If they get done early they can get a bonus. It’s monetary,” Mr. Hastings said.

There is a contingency pavement item. After work on the bridge is completed, patchwork and repairs can be made if needed to the detour route, Mr. Hastings said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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