Governor Tours Damaged Bridge - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/30/07

Governor Tours Damaged Bridge

The McTeer Bridge remains closed. The McTeer Bridge remains closed.
Major traffic delays have resulted from the bridge closure. Major traffic delays have resulted from the bridge closure.

The McTeer Bridge remains closed today, causing a major headache for Low Country drivers. A barge rammed into the bridge connecting Lady's Island and Port Royal Thursday night, forcing officials to close it for several months.

In the meantime, all traffic is having to use the Woods Memorial Bridge, a drawbridge.

Today, the issue is getting attention from the state government. Gov. Mark Sanford made his way to Port Royal today to walk the bridge and assess the situation. 

"This is an incredibly big deal," he told us. "People, based on the reports I've got, have spent four and five hours getting themselves to work or from work to home. And it will be a big deal over the weeks ahead.

"It's going to take a while," he added. "That's the bottom line from what I hear. There are a number of different alternatives being explored. The damage is significant and structural."

The bridge was shut down after a barge carrying a boom crane hit it. It may take nearly three months before the bridge is operating again.

Travelers had been allowed to access the bridge during limited times, but as of Sunday, the South Carolina Department of Transportation decided to completely shut it down because of further damage. Today, DOT, Coast Guard and emergency management officials met to discuss the severity of the issue.

"This is an extremely huge issue," said Robert Clark with the DOT. "We've essentially lost more than half of our capacity for traffic across the bridges."

Not to mention the closure is causing a major domino effect economically.

"It certainly is having a tremendous impact on the area," said Clark. "It's going to impact the economy, it's going to impact everybody's lives that have to use the bridges to cross the river."

Beaufort County mail carrier Terry DeLoatch was stuck in traffic on his way to work this morning, and made it in a few hours late. "I guess you're going to have to leave a couple hours early for work," he said.

Traffic was so jam packed, he says he was only going a few yards a minute, and now he's waiting for something terrible to happen.

"What going to happen the next three months?" he asked. "I was thinking, if there's a hurricane, or emergency, we'd be stuck on the island. I don't see how our town can handle three months of what we went through today."

Gov. Sanford says the state plans to help out in any way possible, first by sending down at least 30 state troopers to help local officials.

The Coast Guard has released the following schedule for the Woods Memorial Bridge.

The draw shall operate as follows:

(1) On Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays:

    (i) From 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the draw need not open; and,

    (ii) The draw need open at 6:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m. for recreational traffic. The bridge shall open on signal to commercial traffic.

(2) On Saturday, Sunday, and Federal holidays:

    (i) From 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the draw need not open; and,

    (ii) The draw need open at 7:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. for recreational traffic. The bridge shall open on signal to commercial traffic.

(3) At all other times the bridge shall open on signal.

To see our complete coverage of this story, click here.

Reported by:  David Hall, dhall@wtoc.com

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