Senate transportation chairman questions functionality of Wando Bridge

posted by ABC News 4 - 

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Charleston, S.C. (WCIV) — South Carolina Senator Larry Grooms, who is the senate transportation chair, doesn't have full confidence in long-term functionality of the Wando Bridge.

“Is it going to last another 20 years? If it does, that’s wonderful, but I’m not confident in that,” Grooms said Thursday.

It’s been three days since a portion of the westbound lanes of I-526 were closed to traffic after a snapped cable was discovered.

It’s created gridlock for drivers across Lowcountry.

Relief is nowhere is sight after the South Carolina Department of Transportation announced the bridge would be closed for four weeks to repair the damaged cable.

“Some questions need to be asked once the repairs are made," Grooms said.

He’s said there are still so many unanswered question about why the cable snapped.

“There’s been some issues with the bridge, been issues with the cabling and now a catastrophic cable failure," he said.

He understands this conversation may not happen for some time.

“What I don’t want to do is take engineers off the job to bring before a committee to answers questions. There’s time for that later, but we need to understand the useful life of this bridge," Grooms said.

Since 2016, the now 30-year-old bridge has been inspected weekly.

Grooms said the life-span was supposed to be at least 50 years, but this one cable has exposed more concerns.

“Now we understand it has some major problems, so the bridge will be repaired, safe for travel, but we need to take a hard look at what is the useful life of this bridge. If it’s going to require a sizeable amount of money, we need to begin the planning now to ensure we don’t have another mishap and have folks stranded for hours on end.”

The Senate passed a roads bill last year. Grooms said it’s helping the state dig themselves out of maintenance issue. But if a new bridge is needed, “The bridge is another matter. The bridge was not placed on any type of obsolete list. The bridge didn’t have any signs of being structurally deficient.”

Citing the length of time it takes to get funding to replace even the stretch of road that's closed, he said there will be tough decisions ahead.

“It took about 20 years to put together the funding package for the Arthur Ravenel Bridge," he said. "For this bridge, I have no idea how much it would cost to replace, but if it needs to be replaced, we need to start preparing for that today.”

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