Carmageddon Delaware: I-495 bridge to be closed “for weeks”.

DelDOT officials have confirmed what many suspected when Interstate 495 was closed late Monday after an inspection: shifting support pillars have left the Christina River Bridge unsafe to drive on, and the bridge will remain closed indefinitely until major repairs are complete.

That means Interstate 495, the main highway link between Southeast Pennsylvania and points south, will remain severed at its closest approach to Downtown Wilmington. From the hours-long delays today, this has all the trappings of an ongoing traffic disaster in Northern New Castle County, and beyond.

The remaining main roads in and around Wilmington, especially I-95 through Downtown, simply do not have the capacity to deal with the load that they were called on to deal with today. Drivers need to start making plans now for the summer, that do not involve those roads. And transportation officials need to help them.

The easiest thing for local traffic is for as many people as possible to switch modes away from driving. Delawareans have a poor relationship with their statewide transit operator, with many regarding the bus only as a last resort of those too poor to have any other choice. This needs to change, quickly. While SEPTA’s Regional Rail service to Wilmington and Newark is parallel to the affected highways and will do a lot of heavy lifting, the train schedule is still sparse and irregular. Anyone with a schedule that is not a traditional 9-5 may find the extra frequencies of DART bus service more convenient. Still, for those who can use it, i.e. those with driving commutes along I-95 and I-495, and destinations in Newark, Wilmington, Philadelphia, or lower Delaware County, the train is going to be a very attractive proposition. Hopefully SEPTA can shake the weeds for an extra Silverliner or two for Newark service.

For those taking the train from Churchman’s Crossing, be aware that, if the parking lot fills up, there is additional parking available at Delaware Park Casino. You can take selected runs of the DART #5 bus one stop to Churchman’s Crossing Station. (The #5 also goes to Rodney Square, but it crowds uncomfortably under normal circumstances.) Park-and-ride is also available at the nearby DART hub at Christiana Mall.

For those taking the train from Claymont, be aware that, if the main lot off Myrtle Ave and the secondary parking area on Governor Printz Blvd Extension both fill up, there is ample unrestricted curb parking on the residential streets in the neighborhood bounded by Governor Printz Extension, Governor Printz, Philadelphia Pike, and Manor Ave. If you have to avail yourself of that option, please be a good neighbor to the people who live there, and leave rights of way and sightlines open, and keep noise pollution as close to zero as possible.

Those commuting to Wilmington or Newark from Delaware County may want to use SEPTA’s most underrated park-and-ride asset, Springfield Mall, and connect to the Wilmington/Newark line at Chester via the 109, or park on an upper level (5+) of the garage at Harrah’s Philadelphia and ride the 37 or 113 to the train station. There is no parking directly at Chester T.C., nor would this blog recommend parking there if there were.

If anyone needs personalized Delaware commute advice, I will be in the comments of this post and happy to assist.

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