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Cracked PA-NJ Bridge Closed at Least 8 Weeks

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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Just a day after Punxsutawney Phil foretold six more weeks of winter, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission gave residents of the other side of the state even worse news: at least eight more weeks without the Delaware River Turnpike Bridge.

The PTC announced Friday (Feb. 3) that a joint task force it leads along with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority believes the bridge, which closed Friday, Jan. 20, due to a major crack in a steel truss, will have to remain closed at least eight more weeks, reopening no earlier than April.

Delaware River Bridge jacking towers
Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority

Crews have begun the process of building eight jacking towers that will support the bridge as a temporary measure.

The bridge 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, north of Philadelphia and south of Trenton.

Could Take Longer

An April reopen date, the task force admits, would be a best-case scenario. The process could take considerably longer if a larger partial reconstruction—or a complete replacement, which has not been ruled out—is necessary, according to a press release on the topic.

Plate on crack in truss

After cutting off samples from the cracked area, workers installed a plate to stabilize the fractured beam.

Inspectors hired by the NJTA to look at a coating job on the bridge, which connects the two states over the Delaware River, discovered the complete fracture in a truss on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge, and the span was immediately shut down.

Engineers discovered that the structure had sagged about two inches between the two nearest support piers, as stress that would have been absorbed by the cracked truss was transferred to nearby components.

After cutting off samples from the cracked area, workers installed a plate to stabilize the fractured beam.

Installing Towers

Crews have begun the process of building eight jacking towers that will support the bridge as a temporary measure. Sensors will monitor loading and stress throughout the bridge as the structure is jacked, so that engineers can see where stress is transferred.

Once the jacking operation is complete, sometime in early to mid-March, crews can see if the best-case fix will be effective.

"Right now, that best-case scenario entails repairing the I-beam by constructing a permanent splice to reconnect the fractured section," said PTC chief engineer Brad Heigel.

If that plan works, the bridge will likely be back in service in April. If not, officials are making no predictions.

“If more extensive repairs would be required, it is not possible to offer even a rough estimate on the scope or duration of further construction because we simply do not have adequate information to make that projection,” Heigel said.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Coating inspection; Infrastructure; Roads/Highways; Steel; Structural steel

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