Damaged Overpass to Remain Closed - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/03/05

Damaged Overpass to Remain Closed

DOT inspectors examine the damage. DOT inspectors examine the damage.

It's all too common lately, someone veering off the road and into trouble. Friday night, it happened on Interstate 95 near Hardeeville. A tractor-trailer veered off the road and smashed into the support columns of an overpass, exploding on the spot. Fiery debris flew behind the exploding truck, hitting a mini-van with four children inside. Somehow everyone, including the truck driver, managed to escape with only minor injuries.

After the cleanup, traffic started flowing on the interstate under the bridge. But it's a different story on the road above.

The upper part of the bridge has been closed for almost a week and residents were hoping today's Department of Transportation inspection would bring some good news. But the DOT says they just can't be sure it's safe yet, and this closure is causing more confusion than you might realize for Low Country residents.

Hardeeville residents have mastered the art of giving directions to and from Highway 278, because almost everyone in town and from surrounding towns uses the John Smith Overpass, which is closed for now.

"This is the only road I ever use so I don't know any other way to get to here," said Eloise Woods of Port Wentworth.

This little Hardeeville secret cuts out dealing with highway traffic and cuts ten minutes off a trip to Wal-Mart. And Friday night's accident, which has shut the bridge down for inspections, has everyone wondering when it will reopen. In fact, the inspections have replaced the normal gossip at Classy Cuts, located right near the bridge entrance.

"They want to know what happened, how long it's going to be closed, and what I know about it, which is not a whole lot," said owner Vivian Gilmer.

City council members say, while residents can still get to 278 using the interstate and other back roads, they understand this is a major inconvenience. "Please be patient," said council member Bea Jones. "It's frustrating for me as well, I understand the problem."

DOT inspections will continue through at least next week, and after that, repairs will have to be made. So there is no set opening date, at least not yet.

"Right now, the concrete columns have the most damage and the cap on the far side, but we haven't got anyone to look at the beams, so it's still too early to tell," said David Glenn with the DOT.

The DOT says it will have a crew out at the end of this week or early next week to see if the steel beams were damaged, and they will be able to give an assessment after that. We will of course let you know.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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