Route 54 Bridge Replacement Planned; Roadway To Remain Open During Construction

Route 54 Bridge Replacement Planned; Roadway To Remain Open During Construction
Community members are pictured reviewing plans for the Route 54 bridge replacement project at a public workshop Tuesday. Photo by Bethany Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – The replacement of the Route 54 bridge was the subject of a public workshop in Fenwick Island this week.

On Tuesday, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) held a public workshop to present plans and timelines for a bridge replacement project along Route 54. While work is expected to take place over the course of two years, Project Manager Nick Dean said travelers should expect minimal disruptions.

“The way we’re going to handle it is instead of full detours, we’re going to build it in phases …,” he said. “So in theory, you won’t feel the effects too much.”

Dean noted the existing bridge, located next to Catch 54 and Harpoon Hanna’s, is nearing the end of its useful service life. And with several large cracks and exposed reinforcement, officials are looking to replace the bridge entirely.

“We’ve pretty much done everything we can from a rehabilitation standpoint to extend the life of the bridge,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s in a corrosive environment with things like tidal water and Jet Ski spray. So it’s exacerbated the deterioration.”

To that end, DelDOT representatives this week presented community members with plans for a construction project that would start in the fall of 2024 and end in May of 2026. Dean said construction would pause during the summer months.

“We’re going to eliminate half the spans and double the span length, so it’s going to go from 40 feet to 80 feet,” he explained. “It will open up that waterway a little bit, so it should be better for navigation and recreation.”

During the first phase of construction, Dean said crews will construct a temporary sidewalk and modify the existing layout to support two lanes of traffic before starting demolition and construction of the first half of the bridge. During the second phase, traffic will shift to the newly built portion of the bridge while the second half is demolished and rebuilt.

“There will be some impacts, obviously, because we are working in a construction zone,” he explained. “But the idea is we’re going to maintain two lanes while building the first half of the bridge.”

He continued, “Then once May rolls around, and it’s beach season, we’ll pause. Once the season ends, we’ll pick back up and shift traffic onto the new portion of the bridge and demo the remaining portion, build it and tie them together.”

Simply put, Dean said Route 54 and the bridge would remain open throughout the course of construction.

“With businesses on two corners, a property owner on the other corner, and utilities that straddle each side, the site constraints are a bit difficult,” he explained. “We are also trying to navigate the beach traffic.”

Dean said Tuesday’s workshop marks the first step in the public input process as DelDOT continues through the design and planning phase.

“If anyone sees something and they have questions or concerns, they can reach out and we can hopefully alleviate those concerns and answer questions,” he said.

Dean noted that design plans and contact information pertaining to the Route 54 bridge replacement project can be found on the DelDOT website, deldot.gov.

“The solution we came up with does allow for normal traffic in both directions to be maintained,” he said. “Our hope there, while we’re in construction season, is that delays will be minimal. And obviously once we leave during the beach season traffic should return to normal.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.