USDOT investing millions in South Carolina’s bridges, improving safety

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 8:18 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 8:47 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Out of the state’s nearly 10,000 bridges, the Department of Transportation says 475 are in poor condition.

In an effort to lower that number, nearly $300 million dollars is coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve South Carolina’s bridges, which SCDOT officials say play a critical role in the state.

“South Carolina has actually the fourth largest highway system in the country,” says Justin Powell with the SCDOT. “Bridges are a critical part of connecting our communities, it’s a critical part for commerce to make sure trucks can pass over bridges.”

The DOT’s announcement of the program comes as a result of the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in November. They say it’s the “single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the Interstate highway system,” according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The plan, called the Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program, will disperse $27 billion nationwide. $274.3 million of that will be for the South Carolina, dispersed in equal lumps over the next five years.

While looking to improve 475 bridges in poor condition, the programs also intends to preserve and improve more than 4,750 bridges in fair condition in South Carolina.

While this is new information for the public, the SCDOT says they’re one step ahead.

“We were already in motion with bridge replacement,” Powell says. “When we got notice about the infrastructure investment jobs act, actually before it passed, we had already started updating our 10-year plan to incorporate these funds into our strategic plan.”

That strategic plan, Powell says, involves improving load-restricted bridges, opening closed ones and repairing structurally unsound bridges.

And these plans don’t just look to help cars and trucks but also cyclists and pedestrians, which has long been a safety concern for some Lowcountry residents.

The pedestrian, cyclist, transit safety and equity non-profit Charleston Moves gave Live 5 this statement on the USDOT’s announcement:

“Charleston County is one of the most dangerous places in the nation for people on bikes, foot and in wheelchairs, with minority communities bearing the brunt of those impacts. We are also on the front lines of the effects of sea level rise, which can be well mitigated by having safe options to choose cleaner transportation modes. Charleston Moves is looking forward to the recently-announced increased investment and opportunities for grants related to our area’s biking, walking, and transit infrastructure, particularly for bridge improvements. Lowcountry residents are all too familiar with having to contend with deadly bridge crossings, and we are very excited to get to work with the relevant agencies and officials to make live-saving changes to our infrastructure, improving access and opportunity for everyone. "

You can read the full News Release from the USDOT here.

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