South Carolina set out to fix its bridges. So far, road builders say, so good.
After the first year of a decade-long bridge replacement program, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has 51 bridges statewide complete or under construction. It's 11 percent of the 465 bridges in need of replacement.
Those bridges either have weight restrictions or are listed as "structurally deficient" along major highways.
"Our roads and bridges have been neglected for three decades due to a shortfall in funding," said Christy Hall, state Secretary of Transportation. "Our 10-year-plan is the guide we will use to recover and restore the state's highway system to good levels."
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York, Lancaster and Chester counties combine for about two dozen recently completed or ongoing bridge projects. Most are involved in the 10-year bridge replacement list. The full 10-year list includes 21 bridge projects in York County, 20 in Lancaster County and seven in Chester County.
Recent and ongoing work includes:
- Last August, work finished on a group of bridges including at Lincoln Road over Allison Creek and Boyd Road at Lincoln Road south of Clover, Gordon Road over Stony Fork south of York, Oak Park Road over Fishing Creek southwest of Rock Hill and Pleasant Road over Steele Creek north of Fort Mill and Tega Cay.
- Two more projects are slated to be done by the end of June. Those bridges cross Tools Fork Creek, one at Adnah Church Road south of Newport and the other at S.C. 5 west of Rock Hill.
- Another eight projects don't have a completion date set. The biggest involve I-77, with a bridge deck replacement over the Catawba River crossing and bridge deck patching at the Celanese and Cherry roads interchanges. Those projects are listed as bridge maintenance.
- Bridge replacements include U.S. 321 over Allison Creek south of Clover and U.S. 21 Business over Steele Creek in Fort Mill, along with Rock Hill area work at Saluda Road over Stony Fork Creek, Church Road over Burgis Creek and Red River Road over Manchester Creek.
- The bridge at Auten Road over Fishing Creek, south of Rock Hill, should be complete by July 2019.
- Two projects were finished in the same round as the York County group that wrapped up last fall. Those bridges cross Cane Creek on Monroe Highway, north of Lancaster, and the Chester County line on Chester Highway.
- Completion date estimates aren't set for U.S. 521 over Cane Creek, between Lancaster and Van Wyck, or Gills Creek crossings east of Lancaster on Camp Creek Road and Pageland Highway. The same is true where Pageland Highway crosses Wildcat Creek near the Chesterfield County line, and at Baskins Hill Road over Baskins Creek, southeast of Lancaster.
- Projects completed last fall were creek crossings at Hightower and Brooklyn roads, in the Great Falls area. There is no estimated completion for West End Road over Bear Creek, southwest of Chester, or Saluda Road over South Fork Creek, near the York County line.
- A four-bridge replacement is planned for the Lockhart area, at the Chester and Union counties line. That work should be done by spring 2020.
There are more than 8,400 bridges statewide in the SCDOT system. Only about 8 percent have weight limits or are structurally deficient. Replacing that 8 percent is part of a larger 10-year effort to double resurfacing efforts, improve 140 miles of interstate and add 1,000 miles of safety improvements to rural roads.
Money for the improvements comes from a roads bill approved by state legislators last year, which increased the gas tax starting last summer.
Along with the 51 bridges under construction now, another 41 replacements should begin in the next 12 months.
In January, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association came out with its own listing of more than 9,300 "structurally deficient" bridges in South Carolina which had S.C. 49 over Crowders Creek ranked No. 17. Rankings were based on traffic volume.
Also in January, SCDOT officials met with Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study officials in Rock Hill to break down how the 10-year plans will impact York County. Jim Feda, deputy secretary for SCDOT, told the group the gas tax increase was critical for state road planners.
He also urged patience.
"We've got quite a large hole to climb out of," he said. "It's going to take some years."