FLORENCE — The Delaware River Turnpike Bridge connecting the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes will remain closed for several weeks.

A fracture in a steel truss underneath a bridge deck on the Pennsylvania side was discovered Friday during a maintenance inspection, causing officials to abruptly close the bridge to all traffic.

"We understand that tens of thousands of commuters and other travelers are inconvenienced every day that this bridge remains out of service. Unfortunately, at a minimum, the bridge will remain closed for several weeks. We will not be able to reopen it until we are absolutely certain it is safe. All of the agencies and contractors involved will be working urgently to make that happen as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we have to ask the public for their patience,” New Jersey Turnpike Authority Executive Director Joseph W. Mrozek said in a statement on Saturday.

Mrozek said the westbound NJ Turnpike/PA Turnpike Extension, also known as the Pearl Harbor Extension, will remain closed.

Engineers and construction crews worked through the night Friday, according to Mrozek,  to temporarily stabilize the fractured steel component and will continue that work through Sunday.

The the next step in the assessment and repair of the structure, according to Mrozek, involves the construction of eight towers on the ground beneath the bridge. The towers will support the weight of the structure temporarily. Jacks will be used to attempt to lift the structure back into its original position.

Sensors will be installed to enable engineers to monitor the load at key points on the structure. High-definition TV cameras will be installed to monitor the structure for any movement. Tests will be conducted to determine the cause of the fracture and to assure that the rest of the structure is sound.

“This was a unique and complete fracture which may have happened quickly due to changing weather conditions,” PA Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan said. “We are stabilizing the bridge now to prevent further movement. However, out of an abundance of caution and to protect traveler safety, the bridge must remain closed until a full-scale analysis and repair plan have been completed.”

Logan that the fracture has also redistributed stresses to other parts of the bridge.

The Route 276 connector bridge was built in 1956 and carries about 42,000 vehicles per day.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.