Concerns raised over Ben Sawyer Bridge as historically warmer months approach

Published: May. 28, 2019 at 8:51 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Crews from the South Carolina Department of Transportation worked Tuesday to prepare the Ben Sawyer bridge for repairs later that evening after heat expanded steel on the bridge and shut it down Monday.

Kevin Turner, a spokesperson for SCDOT, said the bridge has been operating in one place for so long that the structure “settled,” leaving no room for heat expansion.

On Monday, police rerouted drivers to the Isle of Palms Connector after the bridge was shut down for nearly four hours.

With historically warmer months ahead, several people are now questioning whether the bridge will malfunction again.

“If they don’t address it, yeah we’re going to see it again," Hanahan resident and Sullivan’s Island visitor Vernon Litchfield said. "I mean, we’re just now getting into June. I mean July and August haven’t gotten here yet. So yes, it’s going to get hot. I mean, we’re just now seeing the beginning stages of it.”

But Turner said even though this type of bridge has malfunctioned in this way here in South Carolina before, it typically does not malfunction after repairs are made.

Most of the prior malfunctions in this state have occurred in Beaufort and on the former Ben Sawyer Bridge.

Still, some people are questioning why SCDOT would build this type of bridge in such a hot area if heat is known to cause problems for it.

“I was very surprised when I heard that considering that we have hot summers here," Mount Pleasant resident Katelyn Yuchmow said. "I couldn’t imagine that the metal expanding was the issue, but that’s what it was and I was very surprised.”

An SCDOT spokesperson said repairs are scheduled to start Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.

Crews should finish repairs and the bridge should be fully operational by 5:00 a.m. Wednesday.

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