BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The new Cypress Gardens Road Bridge opened at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
SCDOT Spokesman James Law says the bridge was completed earlier in September, but work was necessary on the access roads leading to the bridge as well as adding line markers.
Law said the bridge would have been opened sooner, but several rainy delays delayed the project. Even with the rain delays, the project remained nearly a month ahead of schedule. He says there was a substantial incentive in place for Cape Romain Contractors to finish before the October 25 deadline.
"Twenty-thousand dollars a day for every day that he finishes early with a 30-day cap on it."
"I am very pleased this project was able to be finished ahead of schedule despite challenging weather conditions in recent weeks," said SC Secretary of Transportation Janet P. Oakley. "We would like to thank the community for their patience and understanding after this unfortunate event this past spring."
"We all understood the importance of this bridge to the 6,200 people that use it every day," said SCDOT Commissioner Jim Rozier."I am so very proud of how diligently SCDOT staff, Cape Romain Contractors, Inc., and CSX Railroad have worked together on this project."
Prior to the opening of the bridge, SCDOT officials did a walk through inspection Thursday afternoon. SCDOT officials announced on Wednesday that the bridge was expected to be back open to traffic by Friday morning after a similar walk-through revealed the need for additional paving that was completed on Wednesday afternoon.
The bridge was wiped out back in April when a CSX train derailed and struck pilings that held up the structure.
The derailment forced drivers to take a 22-mile detour through Goose Creek to get to Cypress Gardens.
"We were sitting in traffic for a couple of miles up here on Highway 52 every morning, so the opening, cross our fingers, lightens the load," says Tracey Sawyer, who commutes to downtown Charleston from Moncks Corner."
"It's totally torn up my truck up with all the traffic backed up and having to wait for so much time," says Rick Wingler, who works at Cypress Gardens. "It just overheated my vehicle, and now I've got to get a new radiator for my truck."
The cost of the repairs was $3 million. Law says CSX will pay for the majority of it.
A lawsuit is pending in federal court that was filed by a group who claim CSX was negligent in causing the derailment. They want to be paid damages for having to take the detour.