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The new bridge over the Indian River Inlet should be open for traffic by late December or early January, authorities said Tuesday as they announced the $150 million project had reached a milestone with the connection of the north and south sides of the span.

Work crews poured concrete late in the day to unite the decks of the two sections, a six-hour process that made the bridge just over 90 percent complete.

“I won’t say we’re home free after this, but this is kind of a critical point to get us to where we want to be,” said Doug Robb, project manager for the Delaware Department of Transportation.

The exact opening date is highly weather-dependent, DelDOT officials said; they expect to announce a completion schedule by the end of November. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee caused construction delays in late summer.

The new bridge will be four lanes across the inlet, but only two lanes — one in each direction — will be open at first as the bridge gets tied in to Del. 1.

The final two lanes should be open by spring, after which the current bridge will be closed and then taken apart piece by piece. All four lanes should be open before Memorial Day, said DelDOT spokeswoman Tina Shockley.

After the concrete sets, the bridge’s cable stays have to be adjusted to bring the united span into proper position, which will take several weeks, Robb said.

“It’s almost like tuning a guitar,” he said.

The concrete-pouring Tuesday covered a 10-foot section of the main span that is 8.5 inches thick, as well as edge girders and a floor beam.

“We’ll be able to walk across in the

Article source: http://feeds.stateline.org/~r/StatelineorgRss-Transportation/~3/0mc8UhCN7wA/Span-may-welcome-traffic-by-year-s-end