Reality Check: Crumbling bridges

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A new report from a road and bridge builders association sounding the alarm about the condition of our nation’s infrastructure. We know all about that here in South Carolina.

According to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, nearly 100,000 cars travel on the bridge you see below, on Interstate 26 every day. The one we’re talking about is often referred to as the Bennett Yard overpass in North Charleston, and according to government data, it’s deficient.

Kevin Turner – SCDOT: “We had as much as somewhere in the neighborhood of about 70% section loss.”

Turner is the lead bridge engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation in our region. He says that section loss is basically rust that came from water and other debris getting through an expansion joint.

The SCDOT made the repairs early last year and since inspections are done every two years, it still showed up on the deficient bridge report this year.

The Bennett Yard overpass is just one of nearly 10% of the bridges in the state that are classified as structurally deficient, that means at least one of the key elements of the bridge is in poor or worse condition.

The state has identified 1,569 bridges in need of repair, and that will cost $865 million.

“bridges aren’t cheap to build, they’re not cheap to maintain,” Turner says, “so when you start talking about 10% of those bridges it’s just a really big number that it would take to keep everything in good condition.”

The repairs to that bridge cost about $500,000. Turner said a replacement would be closer to $20 million. He stressed that just because a bridge is listed in poor condition does not mean it is unsafe for travel. If it is, he says they would take measures to shut it down, or set a weight limit for it immediately.

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