CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Transportation reopened the westbound Wando Bridge Saturday morning, nine days ahead of schedule.
SC Sec. of Transportation Christy Hall was among the first to cross the newly-reopened lanes shortly after 8:30 a.m. to help allay safety concerns.
"It is absolutely safe, 100 percent safe, my chief engineer and I will be the first ones to cross this bridge today," Hall said. She also expressed thanks to Lowcountry drivers for their patience. "We know it was a huge inconvenience for you daily and we're glad we were able to return it to service today."
Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie called it a huge day for his town.
"There are only nine lanes of traffic that lead out of Mount Pleasant, and two of them went down and we're getting them back today," he said. "It's a celebration."
He said he believes the Lowcountry has shown a lot of patience during the bridge shutdown.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg was also on hand as the first cars crossed the westbound bridge.
Drivers also were pleased to see the bridge reopened.
"I'm thrilled it's open. We've been held hostage basically on Daniel Island for a few weeks now," said Angie Fehom who lives on Daniel Island.
"I like it, I like it, I think DOT under promised and over delivered," said Kurt Files who lives in Mt. Pleasant.
Barrels will remain in place to block the truck lanes on both sides of the bridges, SCDOT spokesman Pete Poore said. These closures are necessary to allow work to continue in the cable housing below the bridge deck, he said.
Motorists will still have two lanes in each direction.
Prior to the lanes reopening, Hall also addressed concerns about a photo of duct tape being used in numerous locations taken during a 2010 inspection of the bridge.
"Don't be afraid of the duct tape, that was basically covering a cover from where the testing had been done," she said. "It had been sealed and just held together temporarily with duct tape. Just be aware of the pictures, just understand what you're looking at. From the untrained eye, it certainly is hard to explain."
SCDOT officials announced on Thursday their plan to reopen the bridge Saturday morning, nine days ahead of schedule.
The work to repair a snapped cable discovered during a routine weekly inspection on May 14 also included adding an additional cable for additional safety, officials said.
Hall said the work was made possible by a team of structural engineers, forensic laboratories, specialists in constructing and maintaining structures, SCDOT staff and federal transportation officials. SCDOT crews have also worked with their counterparts in Florida, which state officials said has more than 100 similar bridges in its inventory.
Hall said crews worked at an accelerated pace in order to complete repairs and proper engineering analyses to ensure that the bridge is safe.
"I can assure you that my new leadership team, we completely understand our responsibility to the citizens and visitors to our state and we will not stop in our efforts to get and keep these bridges in service for years to come," Hall said at Friday's news conference.
SCDOT officials said they were shutting down the westbound side of the Wando Bridge for 48 hours on May 14, the same day the snapped cable was discovered. Two days later, crews said repairs would keep the bridge shut down until June 11.