Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered highway officials to switch lanes on a remaining bridge along a Charleston expressway over to two-way traffic — one day after those officials announced the westbound traffic bridge will likely be closed four weeks.
The governor made the order in a letter to the Department of Transportation (SCDOT) on Thursday. However, the agency would need to study the idea first, since it has never conducted such a maneuver on the James B. Edwards Bridge. Crews were working Thursday to create a crossover, according to video released by SCDOT.
The westbound bridge was closed for emergency repairs on Monday, after SCDOT inspectors discovered a ruptured cable inside the structure.
Deputy Secretary of Engineering Leland Colvin said he does not know at this point what caused the cable’s failure. However, he said another cable showed wear damage in 2016 and the agency began a “more aggressive” inspection program after that. Federal law requires inspections at least once every two years, but Colvin said the Edwards bridge was inspected once per week after previous problems were discovered.
“This is much, much more aggressive than what we are required to do by federal law,” Colvin said.
However, the revelation that SCDOT was aware of potential problems with the bridge (and thus inspected it on a weekly basis) led reporters to question this week what else the agency may have known about the 1991 bridge. The eight cables are considered critical for the unusually-designed structure, since they connect its concrete segments together.
“I’ve ordered a complete review of our records, including a timeline of all the inspection reports (and) all the repairs that have been made,” Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said.
Colvin said the increased inspections were not due to potential water corrosion or other weather-related damage. “It’s more of the type of that bridge… and how much commerce that bridge carries,” he told reporters Wednesday. “All bridges are certainly very, very important to us. But these more complicated designs are something that we’re paying extra-special attention to.”
Officials hope to reopen the bridge with temporary repairs by June 11 before working on a permanent fix. However, Colvin warned that repair work is complicated by the fact that inspectors do not know what caused this particular cable to snap and are concerned it could happen again.