Barriers being added to Delaware Memorial Bridge to absorb the impact of crashes like Baltimore’s cargo ship collision

Delaware River Bridge courtesy of KYW Radio Philadelphia

Mike De Nardo with KYW Radio Philadelphia reports on the work that has been underway to prevent a collision from causing a catastrophic bridge collapse.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Construction is already underway on barriers that would protect the Delaware Memorial Bridge from the type of collision in Baltimore early Tuesday morning.

Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after it was struck by a cargo ship, sending several cars and people into the chilly water below.

Since last July, crews have been building eight stone cylinders around the eastern and western piers of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which spans the Delaware River and connects Delaware and New Jersey. The 80-foot-diameter cylinders, known as “dolphins,” would protect the bridge towers.

“The purpose is to absorb hits from a cargo ship, should it become disabled or lose power or for whatever reason,” said Jim Salmon, a spokesperson for the Delaware River and Bay Authority. “The damage would be caused to the cylinders, to the concrete structure, instead of to the tower structure that holds up the deck of the bridge.”

The twin spans on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, built in the ’50s and ’60s, currently have steel fenders on the bridge piers. One successfully deflected a tanker collision in 1969 that caused about $7 million in damage.

Salmon said today’s cargo ships are larger and faster, making a more substantial protection system necessary.

“We’re building it as fast as we can, and we were building it as fast as we could before this incident,” he noted. “It was all hands on deck with this project.”

The $93 million project is on track to be completed in September 2025.

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