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Repairs Planned for Troubled SC Bridge

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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The James B. Edwards Bridge, also known as the Wando River Bridge, is set to undergo a number of repairs over the next 15 months, according to the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

The bridge, actually a pair of twin spans, is the only post-tensioned concrete box-girder bridge in South Carolina. Less than 30 years old, the bridge has a long history of issues, including leaks and improper grouting. The twin spans carry Interstate 526 over the Wando River.

A Troubled Past

According to the Post and Courier, four years after the bridge opened, the structure’s aluminum expansion joints began to fall, damaging cars passing underneath the bridge. The joints were eventually replaced, but subsequent inspections continued to reveal further problems with the joints, along with chipping and cracks, among other issues.

In May, the bridge was shut down after a cable inside the precast concrete span failed, the second to do so in less than two years. In June, officials from SCDOT presented findings related to the rupture, revealing that the incident left grout flying “a hundred feet away” from the actual break.

The Repairs

SCDOT officials, national certified bridge inspectors and an international bridge firm have been studying the bridge since May, which resulted in a 2,800-page report that recommends 14 major repairs to improve the bridge. Testing was conducted on more than 27 miles of cable inside the bridge to reveal any corrosion issues.

Nine of those repairs will be addressed over the course of the next 15 months. Plans include crews replacing two cables on the westbound span of the bridge—the same span where the cable failed in 2018. The eastbound span will see the addition of two redundancy cables, though there haven’t been any cable failures on that span. Each cable is composed of 19 wires with seven strands of steel per wire, noted SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin.

There are also plans to improve parts of the bridge deck to help prevent water intrusion and related damage. So far, crews have completed work on repairing and sealing joints on the westbound span’s deck. Joints on the eastbound span will be repaired as needed before they are sealed.

Some monitoring technology has already been installed, including microphones that can pick up sounds produced by breaks in the cables’ steel strands. The system will alert transportation officials if one strand within a cable breaks.

SCDOT has spent roughly $6 million on repairs to date, and there is currently no cost estimate for the work required moving forward.

“The bridge is safe,” said SCDOT Commission Chairman Robby Robbins. “That was our main priority back in May of last year and it continues to be our main priority.”

According to the Charleston Business Journal, SCDOT expects work to begin in the spring, concluding sometime in 2020.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

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