June 5, 2001

Building a parallel span next to the Tyler McConnell Bridge will cost between $7.3 million and $15 million depending on which of the four pending options is selected.

That estimate was included as Delaware Department of Transportation and its consultants for the first time attached pricetags to the various elements of the controversial project to remove the traffic bottleneck at the crossing over the Brandywine. A menu of the various scenarios was presented at a workshop-style public hearing on June 4.

As Delaforum has previously reported, an advisory committee representing area residents and conservation and business interests has essentially narrowed the field of viable choices to putting up another bridge downstream of the existing one and as close to it as a few feet. While an option to do nothing remains officially open, observers say that is highly unlikely to be taken.

The committee is scheduled to convene at least twice in June to come up with final recommendations. The ultimate decision rests with Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward and Governor Ruth Ann Minner.

If it is decided to limit the new span to one lane, it will cost $7.3 million. If a bicycle and pedestrian lane is added, that will boost the cost to $10.9 million. A one-lane bridge would require that traffic flow in one of the lanes on the existing bridge be reversed -- to move eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon -- through use of a moveable barrier and overhead signals. Such an arrangement is not unprecedented elsewhere but has never been done in Delaware.

A new two-lane bridge would cost an estimated $11.3 million without a bike lane and $15 million with one.

Traffic engineers have said that sometime between now and 2025 a one-lane addition would have to be expanded to two. The new bridge can be constructed in such a fashion that that can be done without replacing it with a new structure.

Next to the bridge, the most significant question the committee has to resolve is what to do about its west-side approach.

Reconstructing the intersection of Barley Mill and Montchanin Roads will cost $5.9 million if Barley Mill is kept with two through lanes in each direction and $6.2 million if a third westbound lane is added. In both cases, longer turn lanes would be provided and other safety features included.

No cost estimate was given in the report for replacing the intersection with an interchange. The committee at its most recent meeting came close to eliminating that as an option.

Widening the intersection in front of the main entrance to the Du Pont Experimental Station would cost between $575,000 and $625,000 depending on whether the new McConnell span is one or two lanes. The higher figure applies to a one-lane bridge because of the necessity of accommodating the lane reversals.

In either case, constructing a separate bicycle and pedestrian path between the bridge and Alacopcas Drive is pegged at $3 million.

Providing a new ramp to access the Hagley Museum property from eastbound Barley Mill Road would cost an estimated $1.2 million. That would eliminate the necessity for a traffic-blocking left turn or a separate turn lane between Montchanin Road and the bridge.

2001. All rights reserved.

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Read previous story: McConnell Bridge choice: Three lanes or four
Read previous story: Bridge committee debates options
Go to the Tyler McConnell Bridge project Web site





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