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SC Bridge with Snapped Cable Closed for 4 Weeks

Monday, May 21, 2018

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The westbound span of Charleston’s James B. Edwards Bridge, closed last week after a cable inside its concrete structure was found to have snapped, will remain closed for four weeks while crews make repairs, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

Snapped cables
Images: SCDOT

The westbound span of Charleston's James B. Edwards Bridge will be shut down until mid-June after a routine inspection uncovered a snapped cable inside a concrete box-girder segment.

Westbound traffic on the bridge shut down last Monday (May 14) after a routine inspection turned up damage to a cable inside the post-tensioned segmental box-girder span. It was the second time in less than two years that an internal cable was found to have sustained damage; after a similar finding in the same span in late 2016, SCDOT ramped up the frequency of inspections to weekly.

The agency said Wednesday that it brought in a team of experts from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to help assess the situation and craft a plan for repairs.

Failure Details

SCDOT Deputy Secretary of Transportation for Engineering Leland Colvin said the agency is working with contractor DBi Services and HDR Engineering to formulate a plan to deal with the cable failure, and a temporary repair is already underway, but at the time, the exact nature of the failure was not fully understood.

Snapped cable

The snapped cable is four-and-a-half inches and diameter and comprises 19 strands, according to SCDOT.

The cable that snapped, Colvin explained, is about four-and-a-half inches in diameter and is one of eight stretching through the main center span of the bridge. There are 84 other cables embedded in the concrete. Each segmental box is about 10 feet wide.

According to Colvin, the cable that ruptured this month was on the opposite side of the box segments from the cable that broke in 2016. The cables, about 1,000 feet long, stretch the length of the bridge, running through the box segments, and are made up of 19 strands each, with seven wires per strand.

Colvin said the temporary fixes should be done by June 11, at which point traffic could begin to flow over the bridge again; because engineers haven’t yet identified the cause of the cable rupture, SCDOT will not open the bridge to traffic again until the fix is made.

Life Span Questioned

While the Edwards Bridge was built less than 30 years ago, its history of issues stretching back nearly a decade has some calling for plans to replace the precast concrete bridge.

In late 2016, SCDOT shut down lanes on the same span of the bridge to provide access for workers making repairs after a cable was found during a routine inspection to have been damaged. SCDOT stressed at the time that one cable breaking in the bridge’s concrete structure does not pose an immediate threat to the structure.

Cable rendering

The cable that ruptured, highlighted in this rendering from SCDOT, is one of eight main cables running through the box girders.

In 2012, the agency had authorized repairs to the foundations of some of the bridge’s piers, which were exhibiting scour.

Prior to that, in 2011, a paper authored by a group of Clemson University engineers used the bridge as a case study, noting that SCDOT had identified problems including “improper grouting of ducts, leaky joints, debris in the box void, clogged drain holes (3/4-inch-diameter) and cracks in the piers.”

State Sen. Larry Grooms, a Republican and the chairman of the state Senate’s Transportation Committee, said Thursday that it’s time to think about replacing the concrete bridge, which he says was built to last about 50 years. Whether the state will get another 20 years out of the structure, is now in question given the bridge's ongoing problems.

The bridge was designed by FIGG and built at a cost of $34 million between 1989 and 1991.


Tagged categories: Bridges; concrete; Infrastructure

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