Kleinburd's admonition was the strongest confirmation yet of
what Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward said nearly a
year ago might happen if a new four-lane bridge
supported by graceful arches is to be built instead of an
adjacent two-lane bridge of similar design next to the existing
said at that time that he and Governor Ruth Ann Minner were
willing to pay for the project, which could cost up to $40
million, entirely with state money in order to end up with a
better-looking structure. He and other Delaware Department of
Transportation officials later said that it would be possible to
shuffle Delaware's allotment of federal highway money in such a
way as to avoid a net 'loss' of any of it as a result of such a
The Federal Highway Administration
is bound by law "to reject participation in any project [in
existing structurally-sound historic structure is demolished,"
Kleinburd said at a meeting of 'Section 106 consulting parties'
on Jan. 7. He is the highway administration's Dover-based
environmental program manager.
That view was supported by Mary Ann
Naber, a preservation officer from the highway administration's
Washington headquarters, who said that DelDOT's attempt to
justify tearing down the excising bridge on the grounds that, in
effect, would be the lesser of two evils does not satisfy a
requirement in the federal historic preservation law that the
state agency provide an objective assessment of the project's
adverse effects on historic properties.
The present bridge, which was built
in 1952, has been declared eligible for listing, but is not
actually listed, on the National Register of Historic Structures
as the oldest example of the use of hammerhead piers
Wicks: No bridge work
DelDOT is doing no more
construction on the approach to Tyler McConnell Bridge
beyond what is needed to rebuild the intersection of
Barley Mill and Montchanin Roads, according to chief
engineer Carolann Wicks.
Acknowledging that it might
appear that work on the down slope of Barley Mill Road
is skewed toward a new four-lane bridge, Wicks told
Delaforum that it was designed to provide room for a
turn lane to serve Old Barley Mill Road, which leads
down to the Hagley Museum and Henry Clay village.
"We would be foolish to
build it [in a way] that future construction would
require it to be torn out, but I assure you that
everything being done is related to the [intersection]
project and nothing else.," she said.
to support a
highway bridge in Delaware. Hagley is part of the Eleutherian
Mills National Historic Landmark District, which encompasses the
site of the original Du Pont powder mills, dating back to 1802.
extensive written position statement distributed at the meeting,
DelDOT argues that building an adjacent bridge would increase
the visual harm done to the mills site by the existing bridge.
"If that is what 'Section 106' requires, then the law has truly
been turned upside down and now requires us to preserve exactly
the type of bridge that the law was intended to prevent from
being built in the first place," the statement declares.
'Section 106' refers to a provision in the historic preservation
he said he did not believe that argument would fly, Kleinburd
offered to try to have his superiors in Washington issue a
preliminary advisory opinion if DelDOT submits an official
request based on a tentative decision to propose its new-bridge
option and asks for advice to guide it in coming up with a final
Naber's comments touched off an acrimonious response from Bill Hellmann,
Delaware Department of Transportation's lead consultant on the
McConnell Bridge project.
of bridge to build "is a DelDOT decision, not a Federal Highway
Administration decision," he said. "After the [administration]
acts, there are other options."
discussion, he maintained, would be pointless. "I don't think we
need to spend another $3 million to generate additional
information. ... I have been doing this for 40 years and have
never seen a project that has provided so much information," he
said. "Everybody has already reached an opinion about what they
feel about this project. ... I don't think [more information] is
going to change any opinions."
tabulation of opinions from the 15 of the 25 'consulting
parties' who responded to a request to submit them in writing
which was distributed at the meeting on Jan. 7 found that eight
of them agree with DelDOT's preference among five pending
options -- a replacement bridge with parabolic arches. One other
supports a different form of arch support and three want a new
four-lane bridge with concrete construction.
more significant were the non-responders -- the Delaware State
Historic Preservation Office, National Park Service, National
Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Delaware, New
Castle County and the Du Pont Co.
Griffith, director of the historic preservation office, rejected
all the options, saying "Any alternative beyond 'no build' has
the potential to adversely affect historic properties." He
maintained that DelDOT had not "fully demonstrated" that the
existing bridge does not have sufficient traffic capacity.
Hellmann had said at the previous meeting that not building a
bridge was no longer an option, Griffith said his preference in
that case would be an adjacent two-lane span. He was the only
responder who went for that option, although it was the one
previously recommended by a large DelDOT public advisory group
which considered the project for 18 months.
Griffith said during discussion at the meeting that he felt
Hayward had already made up his and DelDOT's collective minds,
Hellmann denied that a final decision has been made. "There is
no question that the secretary is leaning in that direction," he
said, but added that the department will still adhere to its
obligation to "weigh all comments before coming to a final
is done, he added, the decision will be presented at a public
hearing and then the necessary documentation will be submitted
to the highway administration. Hellmann did not give a timetable
for that to happen and said he was unable to say whether
Kleinburd will be taken up on his offer.
Questioned by Delaforum after the previous 'Section 106'
meeting, Hayward said he would like to see the panel reach a
consensus, but left no doubt that the only consensus he is
likely to accept would not go much beyond modifying his vision
for a four-lane bridge. The DelDOT position statement ended with
the comment: "DelDOT firmly believes that the construction of a
new four-lane bridge with a context-sensitive design is the
right thing to do."
Considerably stronger in its criticism of DelDOT was the opinion
response from Mary Jane Elliott, Delaware advisor to the
National Trust for Historic Preservation. She accused the
department of providing "misinformation" about the project to
has withheld information on [financing] and not allowed the
public to make an informed and educated decision. Without
communicating with the public and never revealing to the media
and public that these options will trigger ... possible loss of
federal transportation [money] for the project, the DelDOT
process becomes very questionable," she wrote.
[Delaforum initially reported on the possible, or likely, loss
of federal support in January, 2003, and has done so in
favored not building a bridge and said that congestion on the
existing bridge is caused by poor control at the intersection of
Barley Mill Road with Powder Mill and New Bridge Roads at the
entrance to the Du Pont Experimental Station at its eastern end.
She said that putting a traffic circle there would solve the
problem of "20 minutes in the morning and evening of
that she also has "concern for the rare plant gallium
lanceolatum and for the federally threatened [sic] bog
turtle" that would be endangered by building any kind of new
denying that Elliot has standing to represent the National Trust
in the 'Section 106' process, DelDOT chief engineer Carolann
Wicks sent a 22-page response to Elliot, which was distributed
at the meeting. Elliot did not attend the meeting.
Hazelton, of Preservation Delaware, said at the meeting that the
DelDOT preferred option has never been presented to the public
and is predicated "on the assumption that the [present] bridge
has an adverse effect on Hagley and has to be removed."
Delaforum previously reported, DelDOT has described the
parabolic arches option as one developed from comments about the
other four-lane bridge options at a 'workshop'-style public
Hazelton's organization did not submit an opinion, however,
claiming that its board of directors has so far been unable to
agree upon one.
Gilder, of Delaware Greenways, said her preference would be not
to build a new bridge, but if one has to be built, a
girder-supported or arched four-lane bridge would be preferable.
"I don't think building another ugly bridge is going to enhance
the Brandywine Valley," she said.
Muir, who represents Hagley on the panel, agreed with the DelDOT
preference, but said his main concern is moving ahead with the
project. "There's mounting impatience ... especially by the
people who sit in stuck traffic while the [present] bridge
vibrates and shakes."
that a final decision be made soon -- "with or without the
gentle rain of federal money."