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Pile of Dirt Causes Delaware Bridge to Shift, Traffic Headaches

Maine and New Hampshire transportation officials have put out notices to construction sites to be careful what's done with soil piles.

Officials say a large mound of dirt dumped next to an Interstate 495 bridge near Wilmington, Delaware, shifted the ground underneath the span and caused the columns to tilt. Some of the dirt spilled into the state right of way.

John Buxton, the Maine Department of Transportation's bridge maintenance engineer, said he's alerting regional offices to ensure officials are keeping an eye out for dumping near bridges. But he says that has never been a problem and there are no plans for extra inspections. He said any dumping should be noted during regular inspections every one to two years.

In Maine, the area under and around bridges is either owned or controlled by the state but isn't marked. He said only in rare cases is the land fenced in.

In the wake of the bridge closure, New Hampshire officials say they consistently check the land around bridges for any damage.

Bill Boynton, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, says he doesn't know of any attempts to store fill in state rights of way. He says the state does a good job protecting those rights of way and has not been asked to change its practices.

Boynton says the state adheres to National Bridge Inspection Standards and procedures for removing soil around bridges and under bridge piers.