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
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
"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
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
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