Guest Column -- Indian River Inlet Bridge a treasure of the Delaware coast
On Sunday, May 6, more than 2,000 people joined me to celebrate the history and the future of the Charles W. Cullen Bridge at the Indian River Inlet. The history of this location is one of several different bridges, an ever-changing environment and the emergence of Delaware as one of the East Coast’s premier resort locations.
In January of this year, it was my pleasure to host Gov. Markell, Sen. Carper and others as we opened the southbound side of the bridge to traffic. Since then, my anticipation has been building for the time when we would officially dedicate the bridge and prepare to open it fully to vehicles and pedestrians.
In the coming weeks before Memorial Day weekend, DelDOT employees will work with our contractor, George & Lynch Construction, to open the northbound side of the bridge, as well as the pedestrian walkway, which will usher in a new era in multi-modal transportation along the Delaware coast and eastern Sussex County.
For the first time since bridges have spanned the inlet, this crossing will not be subjected to the extreme tidal conditions that have affected, and sometimes destroyed, previous bridges. It is through the ingenuity and work of bridge builders Skanska Civil Southeast and their subcontractors, as well as our members of Team DelDOT, that this new span has risen and will stand for many years to come.
The members of the team that brought this bridge to fruition hailed not only from Delaware, but from around the world. Each of them came with one common goal: to build this bridge. Today I can say that they have achieved their goal. As each of them go on to other projects both within the United States and abroad, they all are leaving their mark right here in Delaware. Those who will cross this bridge each day will owe a great deal to the members of this team. They have given their best for the state of Delaware.
The ceremonies that Sunday were in part about re-dedicating the bridge structure to Charles W. Cullen. You may not readily know who he is, but the work that he did in the past allows for the Indian River Inlet to be the economic and tourism jewel it is today.
Mr. Cullen was born in Georgetown in 1865 and practiced law as a member of the Delaware Bar Association. In 1930, he became a member of the State Highway Commission and sat on the Commission until 1940. Between 1938 and 1939, he served as chairman of the Commission. Throughout his life, he advocated for the inlet to be permanently established at its current location. He also worked to promote the internal development of the Indian River Bay and the economic and recreational benefits it had to offer.
It is because of his drive and vision that this area of Delaware has become the destination that it is today. It was because of his dedication to the Indian River and its inlet, the State Highway Commission, and the citizens of Delaware that the second bridge to span the inlet was dedicated in his name in 1940.
When they were building the original Charles W. Cullen Bridge, which was completed in 1940, other than the design, there were some pretty evident differences. The bridge of today had a price tag of $150 million; the 1940 bridge cost $165,900. The pedestrian walkway on the new span is 12-feet-wide; the 1940 bridge had a 4-foot-wide sidewalk. The dimensions of the bridge have grown, as the Delaware coast has grown.
All Delaware residents can now mark the symbolic end of the bridge construction project. Work on the demolition of the old bridge, along with improvements to restore and enhance various State Park and campground amenities, will be moving forward in the near future. Over the next few years, the Indian River Inlet area will be reborn into a new treasure of the Delaware coast.