Part of I-495 bridge could reopen before Labor Day

In this June 3, 2014, photo, a worker inspects the underside of the Interstate 495 bridge over the Christina River near Wilmington, Del., after it was closed due to the discovery of tilting support columns. (AP photo)

Part of the Interstate 495 bridge in Delaware closed due to tilting support columns could reopen to motorists earlier than planned.

Work on the bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington is moving ahead of schedule and southbound lanes could be in use again "several weeks prior to the Labor Day holiday weekend," the Delaware Department of Transportation said in a statement.

The bridge, which carries about 90,000 vehicles a day, has been closed since officials discovered the leaning columns in early June. Officials had previously said it would be shut down at least through Labor Day.

DelDOT said drilling for 32 new shafts is expected to be completed by Tuesday, and new columns will be built shortly after that.

Towers are being constructed to jack the misaligned parts back into place; if that work goes also smoothly, part of the bridge could open sooner than Labor Day, according to DelDOT.

The department said it couldn't predict an exact new reopening date.

The closure has diverted traffic on to Interstate 95 and local roadways.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or Follow @phillynews on Twitter.