South Carolina is setting aside an additional $1 billion for its roads over the next decade, and officials plan to use part of that money to get some of the state’s worst bridges replaced or repaired more quickly.
The exact details of the plans haven’t been hashed out yet because the new money is just starting to come in, S.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore said.
The money isn’t exclusively for bridges. Some will go to widening interstates, and some will be spent resurfacing highways. But the extra money – which comes from a combination of borrowing, new revenue from growth, and reallocated sales taxes from vehicles – should be able to make a difference, Poore said.
An Associated Press review of federal data found that 38 bridges in South Carolina are considered both “fracture critical” and “structurally deficient.”
“Fracture critical” means the bridge does not have redundant protections and is at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails. A bridge is “structurally deficient” when it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component of the span has advanced deterioration or other problems that lead inspectors to deem its condition “poor” or worse.
South Carolina finished replacing one of the 38 bridges in those two categories this year – U.S. Highway 21 over the Catawba River in York County. The U.S. Highway 601 bridge over the Congaree River east of Columbia and the state Highway 5 bridge over the Catawba River east of Rock Hill should be finished before the end of the year. The DOT also is in the design or early engineering phase of replacing four more of the bridges.
Bridges that are still in use on the list include the U.S. 17 bridges over the South Santee River north of Charleston and the Ashley River bridge on U.S. 17 in Charleston. Most of the other bridges are in areas with lesser traffic or more alternatives to travel. Anderson County has the most of any county in the state, with eight bridges that are both fracture critical and structurally deficient.
But the SCDOT monitors all those bridges closely, with extra inspections, Poore said.
“Any bridge is that is open is safe,” Poore said. “Otherwise, we would close it immediately.”