CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Westbound lanes of the Wando River Bridge are expected to be closed for at least four weeks as crews make temporary repairs to a broken cable.
The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon after SCDOT crews along with transportation experts toured the interior of the bridge and inspected a snapped 4-inch in diameter 1,000-foot cable.
The damaged cable was found Monday afternoon during a routine inspection; a replacement cable has already been transported to the bridge.
Even though westbound lanes of the bridge remain closed, the eastbound lanes, which have stayed open since Monday, are expected to remain open.
SCDOT officials said they expect to re-open westbound lanes on June 11.
The permanent repairs will start immediately after the temporary repairs are done. According to SCDOT officials, the permanent repairs can be done with the bridge fully open.
The reason why the cable snapped is still unclear as a forensics team is working to figure out what caused it to break in the first place.
With the expected traffic struggles that have been occurring in the Lowcountry and are expected in the future due to the closures, state and local government officials are looking to implement plans to reduce those traffic headaches.
SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said her department is going through a number of ideas including running both directions of traffic on the eastbound lanes.
"We will be working closely with our municipal partners, first responders, making sure that is something we all agree is a good thing," Hall said.
Mount Pleasant police say they are doing everything they can to reduce travel time in the areas affected including having officers controlling stoplights as needed.
SCDOT crews are working in three major areas with the first analyzing what exactly happened to cause the cable to come apart.
Hall said crews are also working to clearly develop and implement a repair plan to get the bridge reopened as quickly as possible.
The third item crews are focused on is working to make traffic flow better throughout the area.
SCDOT Deputy of Engineering Leland Colvin said engineers in five states are working around the clock to find out what happened to the cable on the Wando Bridge, officially known as the James B. Edwards Bridge, as well as formulating a temporary repair plan which they said began on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, Department of Transportation experts from Florida and Washington D.C. with SCDOT crews also took a look at the inside of the bridge and more specifically at the ruptured cable which Colvin describes as a 1,000-foot cable which runs the length of the affected bridge span.
After gathering information from the site, Colvin said they were unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the damaged cable and as a result came to the conclusion that they would not be able to open the bridge due to public safety until the temporary repairs were made.
"We anticipate those repairs will take four weeks," Colvin said."That's a June 11 date."
As crews begin the repair process, officials will also be continuing to monitor the bridge which they've done on a more regular basis since October of 2016 when crews found and repaired a damaged cable, which is near the current ruptured cable.
Since 2016 crews have implemented an "aggressive" testing and inspection program where inspectors would go into the bridge once a week to do a site visit.
"We've actually increased that [process] with both the westbound and the eastbound bridges," Colvin said."We're now doing daily site visits on both of those bridges, walking from end to end."
SCDOT officials say the last routine two-year inspection of the Wando Bridge did not find any problems that rose to the level of concern where officials would deem the bridge a deficient bridge.
Mt. Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie said one of his main concerns is safety as state and local government agencies work to find ways to make traveling through town easier for motorists.
"We want to keep the 'Pleasant' in 'Mount Pleasant,'" Haynie said."We want to keep everyone operating as pleasantly as possible."
The town's police officers are actively assisting motorists including manually overriding stoplights as needed with the focus being on the primary routes in and out of town.
"Our officers are looking for the best routes and looking to clear them as quickly as they can," said Police Chief Carl Ritchie.
Haynie stressed that traffic is going to back up and be slow during the closure, but stressed to "please keep it safe."
"Public safety first, public safety first," he said."This is a huge inconvenience for everyone. There is no one east of the Cooper who is not going to be affected by this no matter where you live. It's affecting all major arteries."
Detours, schedule changes in place to help alleviate traffic
Colvin said the SCDOT set two detours to help keep traffic moving around the closed bridge.
The first detour takes drivers from Highway 17N to Highway 41, then to Clements Ferry Road and back to I-526. The second goes from 17S across the Ravenel Bridge and out to I-26 westbound.
Mount Pleasant Police have been diverting westbound traffic on I-526 to Longpoint Road, according to Mount Pleasant Police Inspector Chip Googe. No traffic will be allowed onto I-526 westbound from Longpoint Road, he said.
The Daniel Island Ferry is also running a commuter schedule. Click here for tickets.
The South Carolina Ports Authority has also announced adjusted gate times for the Wando Terminal because of the traffic:
- Full gate operations: 3 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Reefer hours 6 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Full gate operations: 6 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Normal reefer hours at WWT only (8 a.m. – Noon).
- Full gate operations: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- No reefer gate operations.
Colvin said the bridge, which is used by 35,000 cars daily, is a segmental box bridge consisting of concrete blocks held together by cables.
It is the only such bridge in the state, he said.
The bridge, which connects Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island, opened to traffic in 1991.
It was designed by FIGG Bridge Engineers, according to their website.
FIGG is the same company that designed the 950-ton pedestrian bridge that collapsed on March 15 on the campus of Florida International University.