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I-526 westbound bridge remains closed for assessment

Staff //May 15, 2018//

I-526 westbound bridge remains closed for assessment

Staff //May 15, 2018//

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Westbound traffic on Interstate 526 in Mount Pleasant is being rerouted onto Long Point Road while assessments are made to the James B. Edwards Bridge over the Wando River. (Photo/Ryan Wilcox)

A snapped cable discovered inside the Interstate 526 bridge over the Wando River led officials to close the westbound lanes of the bridge Monday, creating major traffic congestion throughout the Lowcountry.

S.C. Department of Transportation officials said the westbound portion of the James B. Edwards Bridge will be closed to traffic for at least 48 hours to assess the issue and create a repair plan. The bridge closure could continue past Wednesday, depending on the findings and how long repairs will take.

DOT officials discovered the damaged cable during an inspection; they said they do not know what caused the cable to snap.

“We will have a better time frame once the assessment is done,” Leland Colvin, DOT’s deputy secretary for engineering, said during a news conference Monday.

In the meantime, drivers can detour by taking U.S. Highway 17 North to S.C. Highway 41 to Clements Ferry Road and back to Interstate 526; or U.S. Highway 17 South to the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Interstate 26 westbound.

The S.C. Ports Authority has also adjusted gate terminal times at the Wando Welch Terminal, the state’s busiest container terminal, to help alleviate traffic in the area. The terminal sits along Long Point Road off Interstate 526. The latest gate hours for truck drivers are available online.

Some drivers said on social media that it took them hours to get home Monday evening; others wrote that they opted for ferries for the commute.

“S.C. DOT apologizes for the significant inconvenience this closure will have on mobility in the region and will expedite our assessment and repairs accordingly,” the agency said in a news release.

Colvin said the DOT typically inspects every bridge in the state at least once every two years, but Interstate 526’s eastbound and westbound bridges have been assessed weekly since October 2016, when an inspection program revealed water intrusion and deterioration of some cables.

DOT officials are working with local law enforcement agencies, including the Mount Pleasant and Charleston police departments, to reroute traffic.

Mount Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie said stoplight schedules will be overruled as needed along detour routes. He also said he has called tow trucks to be on standby along detour routes during rush hour to clear any accidents more expediently.

Officials called for drivers to remain calm and patient.

“It affects us all, and so we all must respond in the best we can,” Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie said during a news conference Monday. “This is the time for us to be courteous; this is the time for us to be patient.”