A new report found that slightly fewer of South Carolina’s bridges are considered obsolete or deficient, but more than one in every five are still considered substandard.
The report released Wednesday by AAA Carolinas examined the state’s 9,200 bridges and found about 21 percent (1,828 overall) are considered “substandard,” which means they are not designed to handle the traffic volume they see each day. That was a small decrease from the 2012 report, when 1,880 bridges were classified as substandard. The national average is 24 percent.
Substandard bridges fall under two categories by federal guidelines: structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Structurally deficient is defined as “being in relatively poor physical condition and/or inadequate to handle truck weight.” Functionally obsolete is defined as “having inadequate design for current traffic volume.” The designation does not mean the bridges are unsafe.
“South Carolina’s bridges have improved. They’ve gone from 23 percent to this year being around 20-21 percent,” AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Tiffany Wright told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s a small increase but, hey, it’s an improvement.”
AAA credited South Carolina’s Department of Transportation with making it a priority to replace aging bridges that are limited in the amount of weight they can handle. State lawmakers last year set aside roughly $53 million to replace weight-limited bridges that handle the most traffic. SCDOT hopes to replace 90 bridges in the next few years with the funding.
““The additional funding for our bridges will result in a significant benefit to South Carolina,” said Secretary of Transportation Janet P. Oakley.
However 90 bridges is still less than five percent of the total substandard bridges in South Carolina. State transportation officials say they need at least $1.9 billion to bring all bridges into compliance with federal standards.
“Despite North Carolina being a richer state, South Carolina has done a better job of maintaining its roads and bridges,” AAA Carolinas president and CEO David Parsons said after the report’s release. “But more funding is needed to continue South Carolina’s bridge infrastructure revival.”
North Carolina’s bridges have a rate of 31 percent and Virginia’s rate is 26 percent, according to the AAA. However, Georgia and Florida are ahead of South Carolina. In Georgia, only 17 percent of bridges are considered substandard, while 16 percent of Florida’s structures have that classification.
AAA’s report identified an Interstate 26 bridge over railroad tracks northwest of Columbia, near its intersection with I-126, as being the “most substandard.” That 56-year-old bridge handles an estimated 78,200 vehicles each day, according to SCDOT data.
Charleston County had the highest rate of substandard bridges, with roughly 47 percent of its structures being either functionally obsolete or deficient. Lancaster County was next at 40 percent. Calhoun County had the lowest rate at only 3 percent, while Florence trailed at 8 percent.