CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Whether you've driven across the James B. Edwards Bridge regularly or never crossed it once, the Lowcountry has a clear picture of how important this span is to keep traffic flowing in the area.
With the announcement from state transportation officials that the Wando River Bridge will likely not reopen completely until June 11, drivers, businesses and others are having to deal with major traffic delays and headaches.
Here is a timeline of the closure of the westbound lanes of the bridge, and efforts by law enforcement and local leaders to make the situation as painless as possible.
- SCDOT crews discover a damaged cable in the bridge, which prompted a regular weekly inspection of the bridge by SCDOT workers.
Dec. 5, 2016:
- SCDOT shifts westbound lanes of I-526 at the Wando River to provide safe access for workers, materials and equipment needed for repairs. Crews were called in to replace a damaged cable discovered during a routine inspection. At the time, SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin said a single damaged cable does not compromise the integrity of the bridge and it remains safe for travel. The shift was expected to remain in place until early March 2017.
Nov. 5, 2017:
- SCDOT restricts truck traffic to the right lane of the westbound bridge as SCDOT continues testing and inspection, a process it said would take 90 days to complete. During that time, SCDOT urged drivers to use caution when approaching, moving through and leaving the work zone.
May 14, 2018:
- Around 4 p.m. - South Carolina Department of Transportation shuts down westbound lanes of Wando River Bridge
- 4:30 p.m. - SCDOT announces it will take 48 hours to inspect the bridge, determine extent of damage and how to make repairs. The agency puts two detours put into place:
- Hwy. 17N to Hwy. 41 to Clements Ferry Rd. then back to I-526
- 17S across Ravenel Bridge to I-26 westbound
May 15, 2018:
- Daniel Island Ferry provides transportation across Cooper River back and forth from Daniel Island to downtown Charleston
- Mount Pleasant Police take control of traffic lights at key intersections, move traffic as quickly as possible
- 4:30 p.m. - The SCDOT, mayors of Mount Pleasant and Charleston, SC Department of Public Safety, SC Highway Patrol and others hold joint news conference. They announce it will take four weeks to make bridge repairs, bridge expected to reopen June 11. Additional troopers assigned to Mount Pleasant area to help keep traffic flowing
- 2 p.m. - Gov. Henry McMaster requests SCDOT to provide two-way traffic on the Wando Bridge. The plan would reverse traffic in one of the eastbound lanes, as emergency repairs are being made to the westbound lanes. That would leave one lane eastbound on the Wando bridge and the other moving westbound.
- Around 5 p.m. - Ravenel Bridge Traffic: Police start setting up cones on Ravenel Bridge to allow both middle lanes to lead to I-26 westbound.
- 6 p.m. - New traffic pattern on Ravenel Bridge complete, traffic from Mount Pleasant headed southbound, can now access I-26 westbound via both middle lanes
- 6 a.m. - Traffic pattern again changed on the Ravenel Bridge for morning rush hour traffic to accommodate Mount Pleasant traffic trying to access I-26 westbound
- 11 a.m. - SCDOT reduces I-526 on Wando River Bridge to one lane, during non-peak hours, in preparation for the potential lane reversal requested by the governor.
- 4:30 p.m. - At a news conference, SCDOT officials say two-way traffic on the eastbound Wando Bridge will begin Sunday afternoon, a move designed to give them time for any necessary adjustments ahead of the Monday morning commute.
- 3:04 p.m. - After a weekend of work that included paving crossovers to take westbound drivers to and from the eastbound side of the Wando Bridge, two-way traffic begins flowing on I-526.
- SCDOT officials say traffic conditions were "as expected" with the Wando Bridge lane reversal complete.
South Carolina Transportation Sec. Christy Hall assured drivers during a Friday afternoon news conference that bridges in the area are safe.
"If there's an unsafe bridge, we will close that bridge," she said. "What I'm reading and hearing and experiencing some of the controversy that's swirling around in the area about the safety of the bridges, I just want to assure the motoring public and the citizens of our state that those bridges that remain open are safe bridges. So don't panic, don't worry, the bridges aren't going to collapse. You're in good shape."
She said the SCDOT fully understands its role in making sure that the motoring public is safe and urged people not to speculate and create "a sense of panic."
The James B. Edwards Bridge opened in 1989 and is named for former SC Gov. James B. Edwards. He was a longtime president at MUSC and also served as US Energy Secretary under President Ronald Reagan.
It was designed by FIGG Construction, the same company that designed the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that collapsed two months ago killing six people.
The bridge cost $34 million to construct and spans 7,900 feet, connecting Mount Pleasant to Daniel Island.
It is 29 years old, with a lifespan of 50 years.