Last updated: October 30. 2013 4:06PM - 1965 Views
Karen Kissiah Staff Writer

Karen Kissiah | Cheraw ChronicleTall beams were erected at either end of the State Road bridge earlier this summer, and driven into the ground to support the upper structure. Since then, no progress has been made.
Karen Kissiah | Cheraw ChronicleTall beams were erected at either end of the State Road bridge earlier this summer, and driven into the ground to support the upper structure. Since then, no progress has been made.
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Considering how many bridges in the county, state, and country are in need of repair, or replacement, the Cheraw area is fortunate to have two local bridges under construction at one time. Even if it’s taking longer than officials said it would.

According to a 2011 study conducted by a non-profit organization called Transportation of America, “21 percent of South Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”

The same study concluded that approximately 11.5 percent of the nation’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” The Transportation of America study reported than Pennsylvania had more deficient bridges than anyone else, with 26 percent on the deficient list.

What makes it worse is the fact that, like all of us, the bridges are getting older everyday.

“By the end of the last decade, nearly 200,000 of the nation’s roughly 600,000 highway bridges were 50 years old or older,” according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“By 2030, that number could double without substantial bridge replacement.”

“At the current rates of aging and replacement, almost half of the nation’s bridges will require major structural investments within the next 15 years.”

The problems of America’s aging roadways and bridges is compounded by recent increases in traffic. According to information provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), “Americans rely almost exclusively on motor vehicles for mobility.”

The report said private vehicles account for 88 percent of the nation’s travel. And since 1990, a report from the FHWA, indicated South Carolina’s road traffic has increased by 42 percent due to travel and population growth.

Cheraw residents realized in January of this year, that routine bridge inspections can close a bridge overnight if it is deemed unsafe for travel. Such was the case for the bridge that connects the end of State Road with Hwy 52.

Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram has been credited for his political connections in helping bring the construction of that bridge closer to the top of the long list of the state’s bridges in need of repair or replacement.

At first, local officials were told it could be more than a year before construction could even begin at the State Road bridge. And from there, it could be another year before it would open again. However, demolition of the old bridge began in the spring and the expected completion date was given as October.

Oops. That construction is currently at a stand still. Huge beams were driven into the ground this summer to support the upper structure, but since then, nothing has changed.

Just last year a metal Bailey Bridge, one that can be assembled on site, was placed across the dam at Teals Mill. It was the first of its kind to be used in the state. It is, however, a temporary fix.

Residents in that area, concerned about fire protection and insurance rates, worked with local politicians and members of the South Carolina Department of Transportation to get that bridge in place. Otherwise, those residents would still be waiting, taking daily eight-mile detours, for a new bridge to be built on site.

When the new bridge at Teals Mill is completed it will stretch across a wider portion of the pond and straighted out the road’s curve over the dam. And, when that new bridge is opened, the Bailey Bridge will be taken up and moved to another site in South Carolina waiting on a new bridge.

The bridge construction that is currently happening at Thompson Creek, on Market Street Extension between Cheraw and Teals Mill, is being federally funded, according to Mike Bowen, senior project manager for HRI Bridge Company.

Bowen said his company, which is a division of the Colas Company of Paris, France, was awarded the contract for the job in April 2012. He said the new bridge, which will re-route the road somewhat, is scheduled to be finished by next spring.

— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at kkissiah@civitasmedia.com.

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