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Cracked Bridge to Get Support Towers

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge, which has been closed since a paint inspection uncovered a complete fracture in a critical steel truss, will be getting a set of eight 80-foot-tall support towers as a temporary fix while engineers work to determine why the crack occurred and how to permanently address the problem.

Delaware River Turnpike Bridge
Images: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge will get eight jacking towers to support segments affected by a major fracture in a steel truss on the span's Pennsylvania side.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which operates the bridge jointly with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, said Thursday (Jan. 26) that work was underway below grade to lay the foundation for eight jacking towers that will help stabilize the section of the bridge affected by the crack. The towers will sit on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge, where the damaged segment is located, NJ.com reports

Paint Inspection Uncovered Fracture

A routine inspection by a contractor hired by the NJTA led to the discovery of the crack, which completely severed a truss beneath the Pennsylvania side of the bridge. PTC officials said the fracture redistributed stress to other components of the structure, putting the span at risk. They closed the bridge immediately and predicted at least a two-week closure while experts work to understand the root cause and devise a solution.

Crack in Delaware River Turnpike Bridge truss

The crack, uncovered during a routine paint inspection, severs a steel truss in two.

Because of the redistribution and because some parts of the bridge have shown evidence of sinking, PTC is also adding monitoring equipment to the bridge to keep track of any further changes, according to NJ.com.

While engineers still work to analyze a sample of the truss that was sent to a lab for examination, some have speculated as to the cause of the crack. Officials have pointed to the possibility of cold weather or repeated stress from heavy trucks as factors.

Possible Causes

Engineer Karl Frank told Philly.com that he suspects plug welds done on the truss during manufacturing. Workers when the bridge was built may have misdrilled a hole and welded it shut rather than filling it with a bolt, leading to a weak spot, Frank said. Turnpike officials told Philly.com they couldn't say for sure, but didn't dispute the possibility. 

The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge opened in 1956, and reportedly carries about 42,000 vehicles per day. It is 1.2 miles long, and is part of a stretch of I-295 that connects the New Jersey Turnpike with the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; Roads/Highways; Steel; Welding

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