Legislators and DelDOT continue to spar over Inlet bridge answers

by Michael Short on September 29, 2010

Artist rendition of the bridge under construction.

By Michael Short

Delaware’s legislators continue to press Delaware’s Department of Transportation for more answers about past problems with the Indian River Inlet bridge construction.

A group of seven Republican legislators, six of them from Sussex County, wrote to DelDOT Secretary Carolann Wicks earlier this month asking for answers. While Secretary Wicks has responded, they are making it clear they still want more.

“Thank you for your letter regarding the status of the current investigation into the roadway embankment settlement issues related to the former design of the new Indian River Inlet Bridge,” Wicks replied to the legislators on Sept. 14. “We share your concerns with the initial design efforts, the resulting delays and costs on the Indian River Inlet bridge.”

The concerns are related to the former approaches to the bridge. Those approaches settled and begin to tilt, forcing the project to be re-designed with longer approaches. Most of those earthen approaches have since been removed and the project has moved forward.

But legislators remain concerned about why the problems occured and whether Delaware can regain any of the money lost in the process. They are also concerned that a long-awaited report on the problems has yet to be completed.

“While we all wish this process were faster,” Wicks continued in her letter. “I think we can agree that we want to move forward in a manner that is fair to all involved and results in the best possible long-term outcome for taxpayers. . . In closing, the Department’s first priority regarding this important issue is making sure the state is properly positioned to bring this matter to a fair and equitable conclusion for Delaware taxpayers and I am hopeful we will reach that result in the coming months.”

On September 29, Reps. Dave Wilson, Greg Lavelle, Gerald Hocker, Ruth Briggs King, George Carey, Biff Lee and Danny Short as well as Senator Joe Booth, replied back to Wicks. “We are glad you share our concerns that this matter needs to be brought to a fair and equitable conclusion for Delaware taxpayers. However, we seem to disagree on the need to keep the public up to date on the progress towards that conclusion.”

The letter asked for a followup response about a detailed report on the issues.

“Our state government is, unfortunately, constantly criticized for acting in secret and not acting in a transparent fashion,” the legislators said. “To date, the Indian River Bridge project has been rife with expensive setbacks. The lack of transparency on the part of DelDOT in resolving these well-publicized issues has undermined the credibility of your agency, specifically, and the faith in state government in general.”

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