Silent Heroes

High-wire acts don’t happen often on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, but when they do, a crack crew gives motorists a real show—even if they can’t be seen.



Eight maintenance crews are needed to keep the Delaware Memorial Bridge in tip-top shape and running smoothly. Members of the structures crew are responsible for washing every nook and cranny of each span. Photograph by Luigi CiuffetelliExpect the unexpected.
It’s the only sure thing Vinnie Manetti can anticipate at work on the Delaware Memorial Bridge. So when the call came one afternoon that a mail truck had snapped in half between two eastbound lanes, he dispatched an emergency crew to the site—stat—to warn of an emergency lane closure.
Manetti’s mission: protect the motoring public and his workers as they removed the rig and restored the safe, efficient flow of traffic.
But no incident at the bridge is routine. Two lanes, where concrete had just been poured, were closed, the rig’s broken axle made towing a problem, and the battered sides of the trailer seemed ready to collapse and spill loads of mail onto the one open lane.
Manetti went to work. He determined the vehicle wouldn’t be towed. It could be driven carefully to the bottom without causing damage to the bridge. But the truck still needed unloading. Federal officials insisted that civilians, like the bridge’s emergency crew, couldn’t touch the mail. With traffic backing up on the bridge, there was no time to squabble.
The bridge police intervened, then 10 men from the traffic and electrical crews unloaded palettes and bundles of magazines. The workers labored three-and-a half hours to remove the rig. Some passing motorists clapped. Others were not so appreciative.
Toll collectors and bridge police stand round the clock as the most visible personnel at the twin spans. But the maintenance north group also works 24-seven to keep 100,000 tons of structural steel in the towering roadways in good working condition—and to respond to emergencies. Their role is as integral to the bridges as the anchorages that support them.
“I’ve been in the maintenance and engineering field for about 30 years,” says John Jones, director of maintenance and engineering at the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which owns and operates the bridges. “I’ve been in 14 different organizations, and I have a pretty good feel for talent and what it takes to get things done. And I can tell you that the folks in this organization are without a doubt some of the best maintainers I have had the pleasure of serving with. The breadth and depth of knowledge that these men and women have is just awesome, and so many times things get done without having to say a whole lot because they know what to do. They know how to react to situations. They know how to take care of stuff.”
Eight maintenance crews focus on the bridges, the centerpiece of the Delaware River and Bay Authority’s many holdings, which include the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and several airports. Their jobs encompass more than the twin spans. Eighteen overpasses, 60 miles of interstate highway and 13 interchange ramps must be kept free of snow, ice, potholes, trash and accidents.
Those ramps and roads must look clean and well lit while more than 80,000 vehicles cross the bridges each day. More than 120 miles of guard railing and 10 miles of fencing clamor for attention. Grass needs cutting and curbs and drainpipes require maintenance, too. Toll collectors expect booths with comfortable temperatures. Throw in constant training, which can be tough to make time for when keeping the motoring public safe.
The bridges are a multi-million-dollar public asset, Jones says. Maintenance and engineering uses a preventative program to extend the life of those investments and avoid unexpected or catastrophic breakdowns. Prevention is cost effective, instills public trust and promotes safety. That means maintenance must be planned in a way that is convenient for and barely noticeable by the public, Jones says.
The Minneapolis bridge collapse in August 2007 unnerved the nation. The twin spans, like many bridges, were scrutinized. A recent report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation said that one out of every four bridges in use in the United States is structurally deficient. The DRBA takes preventative measures to maintain the bridge.
“Each year our engineering department, along with independent structural engineers, does an eight to 10-week analysis to identify areas of need,” says DRBA spokesman Jim Salmon. In August 2007 the bridge was rated in good condition, with no structural deficiencies. “I drive the bridge every day,” says Salmon. “And I feel safe doing it.”
Tasks such as inspection, painting, pothole repair and maintenance of treadles in toll lanes require several crews to interact. Greg Seiverd and his road crew of five and Manetti’s traffic crew have returned repeatedly after their 3 p.m. quitting time to mend a section of guardrail or fencing that’s been grabbed by a passing vehicle and flung aside like a piece of paper.
But the maintenance crew performs snow and ice removal best. “We all become one maintenance in a snowstorm—the priority,” says John “Flip” DeFilippis, HVAC supervisor for maintenance north. “When I’m coming in to help out with the snow, I know when I’m coming to our property. These guys have been here all night doing this. You know what? We’ve got it made. All we have to do is touch up some areas and clean up a little bit of stuff. These guys, they got it. They kicked it in the butt. I mean, these guys are good, I’m telling you.”
The expression “my bridge” speaks to the sense of ownership felt by many in the DRBA family. The possession stems from a passion for their work and job satisfaction.
Hired two years ago, Kyle Johnston, 25, represents the next generation of bridge keepers. Though he can see the top of the spans from his New Jersey home 17 miles away, he never imagined working there.
Newcomers land on the structures crew —formerly known as the riggers—the guys who once walked the cables without safety equipment. From April to October, this group washes every nook and cranny of the bridges. Johnston plans on pursuing a four-year degree, a DRBA benefit, while rising through the ranks.
“I love this place,” he says. “Everybody I work with is professional. You see the end job, and that makes me feel good—providing a service to everyone around us.
“I’m responsible for it,” Johnston says. “If it was just a job I wouldn’t be happy coming here.”
Seiverd, a 17-year employee, and his crew do it all—concrete, brick and block work, asphalt, guardrail and fence repair. Some companies inhibit work pride, he says, but not the DRBA. The authority provides whatever equipment is needed to complete a job, and it’s all top-of-the-line. The staff appreciates the nice facility and works hard to maintain it.
“You can’t beat the environment or the camaraderie with the guys,” Seiverd says. “You are never going to get rich, but that’s understood. It’s a nice place to work, and I enjoy what I’m doing and have fun working. I have a good working relationship with my boss and coworkers.”
The group has become like a family, says Pete Thomas, a 27-year employee who oversees most maintenance crews. Eight-hour and sometimes 16-hour days have created friendships on and off the job, he says, and that creates a good work environment. They take care of each other off the clock as well. They’ve put roofs on each other’s homes, delivered fruit baskets in times of illness and death, and have been known to cast a fishing line or two together.
Though the maintenance budget has been cut by 20 percent, the crew conveys a can-do attitude and gets the work done. “They don’t want to hear, ‘We’re short’ or, ‘That guy’s off,’” Thomas says. “We figure out somehow to take care of it. We call another department, and we don’t always get the same response. ‘You’re on a waiting list. We’re a little short today.’ We don’t say that to anyone. That’s not in our vocabulary.”
DeFilippis’ job went from 40 hours Monday through Friday to 24-seven when he rose through the ranks five years ago.
“I’m always available,” he says. “I’ve never said, ‘You aren’t going to get me.’ I’m not married to it, but it’s a pride factor. I’ve got to be responsible ultimately.”
Bridge personnel have been criticized over the years, especially after the authority’s former executive director was convicted of mail fraud and tax evasion in 2005. The stench still lingers, and many struggle to let the criticism roll off their backs.   
Joe Ewing, working supervisor of the electrical crew, says he and one of his men, sporting company shirts, stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts on their way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry for maintenance. A customer said, “There are those bridge workers. They don’t do nothing all day.”
“I take that personally,” Ewing says. “They don’t know me. They’ve already judged me.”
Nonetheless, many say going to work at the bridge is the best move they’ve made.
Rocky Costa would have taken any job 22 years ago, just to get his foot in the door for the security, pension and health benefits. Since then he has worked his way up from mechanic to chief mechanic to supervisor to, now, automotive service manager. As such, he oversees 13 workers who maintain more than 650 pieces of equipment before and after every use.
Costa purchases all vehicles and automotive equipment, and the man knows how to create a crew whose members care about each other. Every morning before their 7 a.m. clock in, the automotive guys gather for coffee. They reconvene for lunch, then join again at the end of the shift to put away gear. “Toolbox talk” occurs weekly for a discussion of safety issues, shop concerns, training and recognition of jobs well done. To eliminate resentment, Costa has made sure that everyone possesses the same skills, an I-know-what-you-know philosophy that levels the playing field and creates ownership.
So is it his bridge?
“Absolutely,” Costa says. “It doesn’t take long once you’re here and you’re established. By looking at the equipment, by looking at the buildings, by looking at the facilities, you want to be a part of it. The War Memorial, the place in itself—you want to be part of it because it’s clean and it’s a friendly environment. And it is. It’s our complex, it’s our bridge, our trucks. Everybody has a piece of it ”

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Sports Card & Collectible Show at Aetna Fire Hall on Jan. 22—sign up now! -Sports Cards McFarlane Figures Comic Books Non-Sports cards Wrestling Items Vintage Starting...

Cost: $2

Where:
Aetna Fire Hall
400 Ogletown Road
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: A2Z Promotions
Telephone: 302-983-2636
Contact Name: Bob Harper
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

Cost: $15-$42

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Take the Lead
Contact Name: Zahra
Website »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
Website »

More information

Come give curling a try! At this 2-hour intro-to-curling event we'll provide a basic lesson then coach you through a mini-game.  Whether you just want to cross #curling off your bucket list or...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Diamond State Curling Club
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Notbybreadalone Ministries presents Feeding the Hungry Outreach. All are welcome to come and partake of food, fun and fellowship. Those who desire a better way of life through Jesus Christ are...

Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
Website »

More information

Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University - Dover
Building A Auditorium
3282 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Telephone: 302-295-1164
Contact Name: Dr. Johanna Bishop
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: East Coast Garden Center
Telephone: 302-945-3489
Website »

More information

East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Telephone: 302-945-3489
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

Cost: $30

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

MARC BROUSSARD In 2004, Marc Broussard, then a precocious 22-year-old singer/songwriter, released his major-label debut; he called it Carencro, after the Louisiana town where he was born and...

Cost: $22 SRO- $32 SEATED

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
View map »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

January 28 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Truss Me, You Won’t Fall! Become an engineer for the day. Design a bridge to hold as much weight as possible....

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

GRILLED CHEESE AND CRAFT BEER TASTING We have taken two of the best things on earth and paired them together – Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer – and paired them together in unexpected and...

Cost: $40

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

More information

Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd, Wayne, PA 19087 Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square...

Cost: Tickets are $25 online, and $30 at the door. Student tickets $10 at the door.

Where:
Church of the Holy Trinity
1904 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA  19103
View map »


Sponsor: Lyric Fest
Telephone: 215-438-1702
Contact Name: Jessica Nelson
Website »

More information

Fan favorite, Dick Smith, returns to the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society concert stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 for a show that is sure to bring the house down! Dick Smith has been a...

Cost: $15 Adults; $10 Students

Where:
John Dickinson High School Auditorium
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
Website »

More information

The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society presents Dick Smith. For tickets, click here: http://www.dtoskimball.org/events-tickets/ticket-information/ For further information, please call us at...

Where:
, DE

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

More information

MOTHERSHIP Mothership is the area's premier Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Composed of seasoned, professional musicians Mario Padovani - vocals, keyboards, Frank Ginocchio - drums, Chris Julian -...

Cost: 15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 215-222-1400
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module