By Ian Bush
WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) -- Part of Interstate 495 has been reopened nearly a month ahead of schedule.
Traffic started flowing along the southbound lanes at 5 p.m. Thursday -- welcome news for commuters and those heading to Delaware beaches.
495 has been a ghost road for nearly two months. It's been closed since June 2 for emergency construction to fix a tilting bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington.
"We did a load test with six fully loaded DelDOT trucks, which weighed about 100 tons," says State Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt.
Bhatt says crews used gauges to measure the response of the span to that weight.
"And the bridge didn't bat an eyelid," he said.
Labor Day was the original target for those lanes.
The northbound side will take another two to four weeks. That was more heavily damaged by the tons of dirt dumped alongside the span.
This is welcome news for commuters, those heading to Delaware beaches, and for parts of Wilmington, where some of the 90,000 vehicles normally on 495 every day have been detoured.
As work continues, Bhatt says they're keeping eyes on that bridge.
"And if anything is abnormal, anything doesn't look right, we'll shut it down again, because safety is our number one priority," he said.
Delaware governor Jack Markell said, "A lot of hard work remains to fully reopen the highway, but this is an important milestone in the project. I thank Secretary Bhatt, the entire project team at DelDOT and all of the workers who continue to work around the clock to safely complete repairs as quickly as possible. I'm also grateful to Senators Carper and Coons and Congressman Carney for helping to secure the federal funding for this bridge, which is a vital economic link for travel in Delaware and along the northeast corridor."
"Reopening the southbound lanes of I-495 in less than 60 days is only possible because of the tremendous teamwork we have had from day one," said Bhatt.
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