Emergency James B. Edwards Bridge closure snarls traffic
Those attempting to get back to Daniel Island or areas in North Charleston via I-526 from Mount Pleasant hit an unexpected obstacle on Monday. A snapped cable discovered inside the bridge by S.C. Department of Transportation officials prompted an emergency closure of the westbound lanes of the bridge for at least 48 hours.
Motorists were urged to take one of two detours to get to their destinations – either Highway 17 North to S.C. 41 to Clements Ferry Road to connect to I-526, or Highway 17 South through downtown Charleston to I-26. Both were gridlocked for the Tuesday morning commute.
At a press conference hosted by SCDOT on Monday afternoon, Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin explained that he and his team made the decision to close the westbound lanes of the bridge to traffic “until a more complete evaluation can be conducted.” At press time, the results of that evaluation had not yet been announced.
Colvin indicated during the Monday’s briefing that the closure could be in place for a longer period of time. As the paper prepared to go to print on Tuesday, some media outlets were reporting it may last several weeks. Another SCDOT press conference was planned for Wednesday.
Colvin also noted that officials were working with local law enforcement personnel, including City of Charleston Police and Mount Pleasant Police, to best handle the situation from a traffic perspective. Additionally, SCDOT had been in touch with the State Ports Authority to adjust gate terminal times at the Wando Welch Terminal so they would not coincide with rush hour, stated Colvin.
This is not the first time SCDOT officials have discovered a problem with the bridge. In October of 2016, a “rigorous inspection” of both the eastbound and westbound bridges was conducted and a damaged cable was discovered and repaired, added Colvin. They are hoping their investigation of this latest incident will yield some answers.
“We are seeing some water intrusion and seeing some deterioration of the cables, but at this point in time we do not know what caused this rupture,” he added. “We inspect every bridge in the state at least once every two years, but based on the damaged cable we found in October 2016, we actually go out and do a site assessment every week inside the eastbound and westbound bridges.”
That routine inspection led to this week’s discovery and subsequent closure.
To assist Daniel Island residents who need to travel to and from downtown Charleston during the bridge closure, the Daniel Island Ferry announced Monday it would begin a limited schedule of commuter service to help alleviate traffic congestion caused by the shutdown.
“Everyone on Daniel Island will be impacted by this,” said Colby Hollifield, a partner with Daniel Island Ferry. “We’ve spent the entire afternoon (Monday) working on the logistics to get some relief to the island, and we’re glad we can help.”
Passengers can book tickets online at https://fairharbor.com/charlestonwatertaxi/items/83081.
“We are selling one-way tickets so that passengers can plan their commutes around their own schedule and not be bound to a round-trip time,” said Scott Connelly, who, along with Chip Deaton, rounds out the trio of Daniel Island Ferry partners.
Departures will take place from the Maritime Center downtown at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. with morning trips from Daniel Island at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. The evening legs from the Maritime Center to Daniel Island will be at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., with corresponding returns from Daniel Island at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Passengers will need to book two tickets (one for each way) if they need round-trip service.