Bridge Closure Continues to Cause Problems - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/01/07

Bridge Closure Continues to Cause Problems

Traffic tie-ups are still troubling drivers in the Low Country and affecting special elections today. People are still waiting in long lines trying to cross the Woods Memorial Bridge in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The reason: a barge rammed into the McTeer Bridge, connecting Port Royal and Lady's Island last week.

All the rerouting of traffic caused concern about special election for state Senate District 46. How could the people who vote on Lady's Island and other northern Beaufort County islands get to the polls before they closed at 7pm?

State Rep. Catherine Ceips, one of the candidates on the ballot today, asked Gov. Mark Sanford to extend the hours, but he couldn't. She then turned to the court and today Beaufort County Circuit Court judge Roger Young ordered the polls to remain open till 9pm throughout Beaufort County. (Click here to read the order.)

But the election's not the only thing the bridge closure has affected.

The damage to support beams under the McTeer Bridge may seem small, but it's the cause of lots of trouble all over the county.

"It has an impact on just about everybody," said Robert Clark with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

Thursday night, a barge with a boom crane slammed into the support beams under the bridge, damaging them. There had been limited one-lane access early in the weekend, but after testing, the DOT decided to shut the bridge down despite how vital the bridge is to the islands community in Beaufort County.

"In the Low Country, the waterways are a big, big, huge part of our lives," said Clark. "And anymore, with our bridges, that's how our lives, our commerce traverses all those."

The only other option for people has been the Woods Memorial Bridge, but this is proving to be a little too much for tourists like Tom Caig to handle. He and his wife made their way down from North Carolina and wanted to check out what the Low Country had to offer, but were surprised over the weekend.

"It's pretty ironic," Caig told us. "My wife was really hoping for some nice weather, and we got that. But on the other end the traffic is there."

So they decided to put their sightseeing and picture taking on hold, figuring traffic would lighten up by the beginning of the week. They were surprised again today when they tried to cross the Woods Memorial Bridge into Beaufort, which took them two hours.

"We were saying, 'Let's turn around, let's forget it,'" Caig told us.

In an effort to ease problems tomorrow morning, Beaufort County have a plan to use lane reversal. Officials released this:

Local officials announced this afternoon that they will attempt new measures to control traffic congestion on Lady's Island by using a modified lane reversal beginning early tomorrow morning.

Beginning at 5:30 AM and ending at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning, two lanes of traffic will be allowed across the Woods Bridge into the City of Beaufort.  There will be no access to Lady's Island from the City during these times.  Residents and commercial vehicles needing to go to Lady's Island should go prior to 5:30 AM or after 7:00 AM.

For images of the lane configuration, click here.

Reported by:  David Hall, dhall@wtoc.com

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