State transportation officials say it will be up to a month before a critical bridge reopens in the Charleston area.
The Interstate 526 westbound James B. Edwards Bridge over the Wando River has been closed since inspectors found a ruptured cable in its interior Monday. Department of Transportation Deputy Engineering Secretary Leland Colvin said inspectors do not yet know what caused the failure.
“As a result of that, we’re going to be unable to open the bridge, due to public safety, until the temporary repairs are made,” he told reporters in a briefing Wednesday.
Colvin said the agency believes it will take four weeks to diagnose the problem, craft a temporary repair plan and put it into action. A longer-term repair can be done once the bridge is open to traffic, he said.
The bridge is the primary route north out of Mount Pleasant — the state’s fourth-largest city. SCDOT estimates more than 35,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day. It is also the normal exit route for trucks leaving the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal.
Colvin said the 1991 bridge had shown earlier evidence of corrosion in its cables. He said concerns about those cables has prompted the agency to inspect the bridge once each week, an unusually high rate.
“This cable that has burst is one of those cables that literally holds the bridge together,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. “And so public safety is number one.”
With the bridge’s closure, only two realistic detours exist for drivers heading north out of Mount Pleasant: either take the Highway 41 bridge through the suburbs (a 22-mile detour) or drive directly through downtown Charleston and head north on Interstate 26.
Highway Patrol troopers have been deployed across the Mount Pleasant and Daniels Island regions to help assist drivers and quickly clear packed roads in the event of a collision, according to Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith.