CHERAW — Motorists could have access across the Teal’s Mill Bridge, but truckers will have find another route.
Tuesday, S.C. Dept. of Transportation officials met with Teal’s Mill Volunteer Fire Dept. heads to hammer out a solution to provide fire protection that isn’t delayed by a four-mile detour around a closed bridge.
Deciding between a 30-feet by 40-feet sub-station and a temporary bridge open to small vehicles will be determined by their costs and risk to motorists.
“It’s a balancing act,” said John McCarter, DOT Engineering Administrator.
By the end of April, state officials will determine what will be least costly but most effective way to preserve fire protection for 500 homes seeing delayed responses from Teal’s Mill Volunteer Fire Dept. by way of a detour around a closed bridge.
Tuesday morning, state officials spot checked several properties in the Teal’s Mill area that could house a sub-station for three years should propping up the existing or providing a temporary bridge becomes too expensive and dangerous to bear heavy equipment.
This week’s meeting spurred from a Feb. 28 community meeting between residents directly affected by the Teal’s Mill Bridge closing.
A second meeting is in the works within three months when DOT officials return to lay out options for a new bridge design.
The bridge’s Nov. 3 closure created a domino effect hurting small businesses, hampering motorists, extending fire and EMS response time and affecting homeowner’s insurance rates.
A temporary bridge would allow for traffic to cross the pond but would be heavily enforced by state troopers contracted by DOT targeting vehicles exceeding weight limits.
“People would get the idea that somebody might be there writing tickets and just go around,” McCarter said.
McCarter said the DOT would aim to have the bridge support a 46,000-pound pumper truck – the tanker would be detoured around, said Teal’s Mill VFD Chief R.P. Presson, who preffered to see a temporary bridge installed.
“We’ve never took our pumper across the bridge during the last three years. On the way back, we always went around,” he said.
OVERSET FOLLOWS:Teal’s Mill VFD use the bridge approximately 20 times a year.
Chief Presson offered to reduce the number of trips over a temporary bridge by using the detour for grass fires.
Initial rough projections place construction of the bridge anywhere from a year to two years, possibly three, with detours guiding an estimated 700 daily motorists around the bridge.
Repairing the bridge will take longer than normal with DOT working with Dept. of Natural Resources, Dept. of Health and Environmental Control and the pond’s owner.
The pond is private property however the dam and spillway are maintained by the state.
Residents living on the Cheraw side of the bridge could lose their homeowners insurance premium discounts without quicker fire response.
ISO Rating Services assigns a number between 1 and 10 to fire districts based on criteria ranging from water availability, equipment and number of sub-stations; 10 rated as if there is not fire protection. Teal’s Mill holds an ISO rating of 6 for homes within five road miles of the fire department with residents on the Cheraw side of the bridge at risk of losing insurance discounts.