SCDOT: Additional $200 million is needed annually for Lowcountry bridges

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The South Carolina Department of Transportation is asking the general assembly for $200 million in additional annual funding just dedicated to bridges.
Currently, the state has $230 million annually that goes to bridges that come from the gas tax, federal funding and federal grant funding. They say they need more money to focus on the oldest bridges in the state, in part of a movement they call the “looming bridge crisis.”
“We’re just seeing an aging inventory across the network,” SCDOT Director of Public Engagement Kelly Moore said.
As of now, SCDOT has repaired or fully replaced 338 out of the 500 bridges in their ten-year plan. All of these bridges are more than 60 years old.
“That number feels scary,” Bike/Walk Summerville Director Christopher McClure said. “…But age-wise, I kind of look at that as us having to catch up with our infrastructure. It kind of just seems to be like a repeated pattern in the Lowcountry.”
Out of the 8,400 bridges across the state, SCDOT says nearly 30% of these are 60-plus years old. While a portion of these is in their ten-year plan, more will eventually get added to future plans as time goes on and the older the bridges get.
McClure describes what it feels like to travel over the Ashley River Bridge, which is one of two bridges in Charleston County that are in the ten-year plan.
“Sometimes when you go over the gaps in the concrete where I’m sure the bridge is stable, but at the same time as someone who’s driving a vehicle at 40 miles per hour, it’s not the most comforting thing in the world,” McClure said. “There’s definitely some bridges that have minor bridges where, sure, at the end of the day, it’s structurally sound and it’s not going to collapse under you. But it doesn’t really inspire confidence in the average citizen.”
He adds that he feels comfortable with SCDOT having the funds required to be able to fix bridges like this.
And although some say these bridges don’t seem like they’re going to fall apart at any moment, there are other adjustments some folks, like Summerville resident John Mott, want to see.
“For cars, it’s pretty good,” Mott said. “But for bicyclists and pedestrians, there is still standing a lot of infrastructure that was functionally obsolete the way it was built.”
On the list of 500 bridges, two are in Charleston County, three in Berkeley, ten in Orangeburg County and none in either Dorchester or Colleton. Mott says the bridges on E 5th North Street in Dorchester County and Farmington Road in Charleston County should also be considered.
“Neither of those has much of a paved shoulder at all,” Mott said. “Let alone being accessible to pedestrians.”
But just because they’re old, it doesn’t mean they’ve been untouched. Every bridge is inspected every two years and those with underwater elements have a scuba inspection every five years.
Moore addresses the folks who get anxious when traveling over bridges.
“Definitely understand that,” Moore said. “Would want to reassure folks we do have that rigorous inspection schedule… Also, would want to tell people that if they have a concern about a bridge or a state-maintained roadway, please be in touch with us. we will send folks out to look at something if there’s ever a concern.”
Moore says they plan to finish these first 500 bridges by 2027, but they’re already looking ahead and marking other bridges that are in need through 2050.
To view more information about the “looming bridge crisis” and get connected with SCDOT, view this PowerPoint.
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