State Route 1 Bridge Bills to be Paid; St. Georges Bridge Survives Another Year

WASHINGTON, DC – Delaware’s Congressional delegation today announced a major step towards resolving the state’s long-standing debate with the Army Corps of Engineers over two bridges spanning the C&D Canal. Senators Biden and Carper were joined by Congressman Castle to announce a key Senate committee’s approval of a bill that appropriates more than $1.2 million in federal funding to pay the outstanding electricity bills for the State Route 1 Bridge, and reimburses the state for the maintenance and upkeep of the five-year-old span. The bill also prohibits the Corps from using any funding in fiscal year 2002 for the demolition or closure of the St. Georges Bridge. The language was authored by Senators Biden and Carper after negotiations with the Corps and committee members and was approved as part of the 2002 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. Congressman Castle will continue his work to have the House agree to similar language in conference committee. Since the new Route 1 Bridge has been operational, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declined to accept legal ownership of it as long as the Corps maintains ownership of the St. Georges Bridge. As a result, the Corps has not provided for bridge maintenance and upkeep, nor has it paid more than $100,000 in outstanding electricity bills. Though the ownership issue has yet to be resolved, Senators Biden and Carper’s efforts, with Congressman Castle’s work in the House, will keep the St. Georges Bridge open another year and the Corps will reimburse the state of Delaware for five years of upkeep on the SR 1 Bridge. “Though some tough issues still remain unresolved, this settles one very sticky point of contention between the Army Corps of Engineers and the State and clearly gives us better footing,” said Senator Biden. “Without officially accepting ownership of the bridge, we’ve gotten the Corps to acknowledge responsibility for the bridge. We’re not at the finish line yet, but we’re on our way.” “This is a major step forward. The Corps is paying off the debt they owe to the State of Delaware. I would still rather see the canal filled in, but I am happy the Corps is finally taking responsibility for maintaining these crossings,” Carper said. “We pledged to work together as a delegation on this issue and we have. When this delegation works together, we get things done.” “I am pleased the Army Corps of Engineers has listened to Congress and is accepting its responsibility to reimburse the State of Delaware the money the state has spent to maintain the bridge,” Castle said. “We are moving in the right direction. However, I have outstanding concerns regarding ownership of the bridge-it is the Army Corps responsibility to maintain good and sufficient crossing over the canal and I hope our Congressional delegation can work with the Corps to do what is best for the State of Delaware and its citizens.” The bill must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.