The more than 100,000 commuters, sports fans, shore visitors and truck drivers who use the Walt Whitman Bridge each day will find crossing the Delaware River more challenging beginning Friday, Aug. 26, as the redecking of the span will close one of the seven lanes in succession through the summer of 2014.
Executive Director John Matheussen hailed the imminent start of the $140 million redecking of the Walt Whitman Bridge at the Wednesday, Aug. 17 meeting of the Delaware River Port Authority bi-state board. Matheussen pointed to the project, which will essentially replace the existing bridge, as part of the $1 billion in planned capital improvements the Authority is supporting through the $1 increase in bridge tolls and a 10 percent hike in train fares, which began July 1.
Later in the meeting, a new Pennsylvania delegation—headed by the board’s new chair, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett—led the push that tabled $16 million in proposed funding for two other projects.
Matheussen responded to questions about the costs included in an $8 million plan to expand the maintenance yard in Lindenwold for the PATCO high-speedline by sending it “back to the drawing board,” and pulled back an $8 million plan to seek savings in energy costs through “reverse auctions” until staff has identified the broker who will negotiate for the authority with energy suppliers.
The redecking of the Walt Whitman Bridge, which first opened to traffic in 1957, will begin with a five month closure of the right hand eastbound lane, with successive one-lane closures as the three-year project proceeds.
According to the authority, the existing grid deck will be exchanged for a more modern grid deck partially filled with lightweight concrete. This type of deck was selected because it weighs less than conventional decks.
In addition to being lighter, the new bridge deck will have no relief joints. The existing structure has relief joints every 300 feet. Eliminating all of the joints except those at the towers and anchorages will help to prevent water from corroding the under bridge's steel support system.
To accommodate the shifting of the deck and the main trusses, more than 3,000 elastomeric bearings will be installed underneath the deck stringers allowing the decks to “float” on top of the superstructure. According to the company that won the contract—American Bridge Company of Coraopolis, PA—another benefit of no relief joints is a smoother riding surface.
In addition to the Walt Whitman Bridge, the DRPA owns and operates the Benjamin Franklin, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross bridges, the PATCO high-speedline, and the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal. The DRPA also owns the RiverLink Ferry.
(John Crosbie writes about the Delaware River Port Authority and South Jersey public-transportation issues for Patch.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)