The closed bridge that links the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes will soon be supported by eight, 80-foot support towers as part of the emergency work to repair a crack in a steel support beam, officials said.
Authorities shut down the span last Friday after inspectors examining a painting project saw the crack under the the westbound right lane on the Bucks County, Pa. side. The bridge is jointly owned by both states' turnpike authorities, and the detours in place have put more traffic on interstates and side streets in both states.
In addition to the bridge itself, the westbound lanes of the five-mile highway -called the Pearl Harbor extension - from exit 6 on the New Jersey Turnpike remain closed to traffic as well.
Workers are currently prepping the ground on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge for the installation of the supports, called jacking towers. Each tower will sit on footings that need to be bored into the ground, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl DeFebo said Thursday.
The towers will be one of the more visible measures underway to permanently repair the fracture.
Other work includes the recent installation of monitors that can detect stress loads, since the fracture has caused other supports to bear more of the bridge's weight, and parts of the bridge have settled a few inches, DeFebo said
The jacking towers will temporarily relieve that stress. "It's all part of solving the mystery of what happened," DeFebo said.
No exact timetable for the work has been determined, DeFebo, and New Jersey Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeny, said.
The work is intensive, and will be prolonged, DeFebo said.
In the days after the discovery, workers put a temporary patch across the damaged beam. During that work, crews used a torch to cut pieces from each side of the broken beam, called a truss. The pieces were sent to a laboratory for a battery of tests, DeFebo said.
"They're basically looking for everything (about the steel)," DeFebo said. The tests are also geared toward finding out what happened, and how best to repair it.
In terms of the traffic, DeFebo said motorists seem to be adapting to the detours in place, and traffic is moving better, however, delays and congestion remain during rush hours and other peak times - and especially on alternate Delaware River crossings in Mercer and Burlington counties in New Jersey, and Bucks County, Pa.
Feeny said the overall flow of the New Jersey Turnpike has not been affected, despite exit 6 being closed to motorists. Drivers on Route 130 can still access the Pearl Harbor connector heading east, toward the main Turnpike lanes, he said.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike has created a special web page about the bridge closure. DeFebo urged people to visit it for further information.