Gov. McMaster wants independent audit of SCDOT bridge inspections

In light of the unexpected emergency closing of the Wando Bridge in Mt. Pleasant due to a snapped cable, S.C. Governor Henry McMaster has asked for an independent expert to review how inspections are done for all 8,428 bridges throughout South Carolina.

“It is imperative that SCDOT take additional steps to reassure public officials and the public at large that all South Carolina bridges are safe and properly maintained,” McMaster wrote to Christy Hall, secretary of transportation with the S.C. Department of Transportation.

McMaster also asks tough questions of the department, requesting comprehensive written responses about the Wando Bridge’s condition and any past problems.

The Wando bridge is a portion of busy I-526 which connects North Charleston to Mt. Pleasant.

The northbound lanes were closed on May 14 immediately following the snapped cable discovery, causing traffic headaches ever since. A one-lane reversal on the eastbound lane is helping, but the bridge isn’t expected to re-open in full capacity until June 11.

McMaster requested that independent experts go over records, protocol and procedures for how SCDOT inspects its bridges.

He requested the results be made public.

Additionally, he wrote, “SCDOT should work to maintain public confidence by answering pressing questions that naturally follow such an unanticipated announcement.”

He asks the department to answer the following initial questions regarding the Wando Bridge:

  • Have there been any ruptured or broken cables in the past, and if so, what has SCDOT done to address the same?
  • What are SCDOT’s national experts advising about the bridge’s previous inspections and repairs? What additional steps are SCDOT’s experts recommending at this time?
  • As we await the results of the forensic testing, does the latest structural analysis indicate or identify any risk that the bridge will fail?
  • What is the SCDOT’s plan to get the full service life out of the bridge? To the extent practicable, what can be done to ensure that the public receives the maximum utility out of the current bridge, whether that be the remainder of the originally anticipated years of service or otherwise? Alternatively, if long-term use of the bridge is not advisable, what action is SCDOT taking to plan for replacement-related contingencies?

McMaster several times in his letter praises the SCDOT employees for working diligently to repair the bridge.

"While the sudden closure of the bridge has been inconvenient for many and has created significant hardships for some, the dedication of these public servants and their families, on a 24/7 basis, reminds us to be patient, understanding, and appreciative in spite of the disruption," McMaster writes.

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