DE Memorial Bridge – Ship Collision Protection Project Underway Since 2023

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It’s been a week since a massive container ship struck the support structure leading to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Could the same thing happen to the Delaware Memorial Bridge? Jim Salmon at the Delaware River & Bay Authority tells the Talk of Delmarva that construction of the bridge’s Ship Collision Protection System has been underway since July of 2023. Two cells have been completed and construction continues on the remaining six cells. This work is scheduled to be completed in September of 2025. Salmon adds that this protection system is designed for a Neo-Panamax vessel – which is slightly larger than the Dali, which struck the Key Bridge – and the cells are designed to be sacrificial and will stop a ship from hitting the bridge.

  • Design criteria based on American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials
  • Each cell is 80’ diameter x 8 cells with each one using 150 sheet piling which equates to 540 tons of steel in each
  • Each cell is filled with approximately 15,000 CY of sand, 140 CY of large stone, and 400 CY of large boulders at the top
  • Piling are 110’ long without splices.  Of this amount, 15’ protrudes above the water, then passes through 50’ of water, then a 35’ silty clay layer, and the tip penetrates 10’ through a dense sand layer

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM DRBA.NET

This nearly $93 million is partially funded by a $22.25 million U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant.

The first span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge opened in 1951 – the twin span was completed in 1968 and the current bridge tower pier protection systems were original to each span.

The new bridge ship collision protection system project consists of the installation of eight (8) stone filled “dolphin” cylinders, each measuring eighty (80) feet in diameter. Four cells will be installed at the piers supporting both eastern and western towers and be located a minimum of 443 feet from the edge of the Delaware River’s 800’ wide channel.


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