Relief comes at last for a bridge that took too long

by Annette C. Silva

Nancy Jester got one of her wishes for Christmas: the completion of the bridge on Rt. 46 (Old Furnace Road).
The only problem is that it was also a Halloween wish and a Thanksgiving wish.
In fact, since the state began construction of the new bridge on June 21, Jester's Middleford Road Deli has lost, on average, 85 percent of its daily business.
"They initially said it would be done in September," she said.
Only her loyal help and constant customers have kept her from closing down altogether.
"The majority of our customers come from Old Meadow Road, Coverdale Crossroads or River's End," said Jester, who has been in business here for 14 years. "Rt. 46 is one of the main connecting roads from Seaford to Rt. 9 and Georgetown." Describing her store as a "Mom and Pop" shop (she used to run it with her husband Greg, now deceased), the Deli is a convenience store, sandwich shop and gas station that has, for the past six months, been most inconvenient for Jester and her customers.
On June 21, First State Crane Service, Inc., contracted by DELDot, began replacing the old wood frame bridge with concrete precast sections; in effect, they constructed a totally new bridge.

"This bridge will last forever," said John Hayden of First State Crane. "It had to be done. The deck [of the old bridge] was gone and it was worn out."
Hayden's aware of the complaints from the residents in the area.
"I don't blame them," he said, "I don't like upsetting the local people." According to Hayden, his company has had a few delays due to state archeological surveys, hurricane threats and additional re-enforcement of the bridge.
"A lot of extra stuff has had to be done," said Hayden, a man of few words.
Jester appealed to local representatives and DelDot for some assistance when she feared she might lose her business, but all she qualified for, according to Bill Pfaff of the Small Business Development Center, was a low-interest loan.
"Why would I want to go more into debt?" she asked. She's down to no money in the bank, hanging on by loyal clients like Robert Drayton who lives on the north side of the bridge and who works in Georgetown.
"We go up to Route 18 then over to Route 113 to go to work, but we still come over here to buy things," said Drayton.
After the bridge opens (and Hayden said it would on December 22) Jester plans to have a week-long celebration, starting December 27, to entice all of her old customers back.
"We'll have sodas and sandwiches on sale and Pepsi is donating money so we can have door prizes," she said.
Before the bridge closed for construction, Jester's Deli handled approximately 500 people a day; during bridge construction, the most recent delay caused by a telephone cable being cut by the replacement of a guard rail, she was down to less than 50 customers daily.
"It's going to take us a while to recoup, but at least my employees will be able to cash their paychecks."

Note: The bridge opened Tuesday, Dec. 21, six months after being closed to traffic.