West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) - The SCDOT will close interstate 26 between Augusta Road and Sunset Boulevard this weekend to expedited the permanent closure and removal of the damaged bridge on Leaphart Road in West Columbia. The bridge, that had been struck many times over the years by heavy trucks travelling I-26, was hit again last week.
I-26 will be closed Saturday, beginning at 10 p.m. The closure is expected to last 12 hours, ending on Sunday, at 10 a.m. The bridge on Leaphart Road is being closed permanently.
In last week’s strike, the bridge’s structure was so significantly damaged that DOT engineers felt it was unsafe to continue to use it any longer. It was hit by a truck that was hauling an oversized load that wasn’t legally permitted.
The bridge that was built at a height above the road that is significantly lower than others constructed to today’s standards, has been hit four times this year. It has been hit many times in its life, and each strike did more damage that eventually made it necessary to replace it.
SCDOT’s bridge engineers thoroughly inspected the bridge immediately after the latest strike that occurred last week. The decision was made at that time to permanently close it to traffic. Additional inspections and review by SCDOT’s top bridge engineer recommended an accelerated removal of the damaged structure of the old bridge.
Detours for the route have already been put in place, but motorists have reported experiencing delays because of the complete closure of the road. It was a key route from Augusta Road to Sunset Boulevard that was used by thousands daily.
The SCDOT has coordinated with the State Transport Police to increased patrol of this section of interstate to identify illegal, oversized loads. When a driver applies for a permit to carry an oversized load, that driver has to specify the route they will be following. The oversized permit division can then note bridges that are lower than the loads height along their path, and identify an alternate route for that operator. Fines for trucks that exceed the size limits without proper permitting can be significant.
A replacement bridge for Leaphart Road is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. SCDOT and the bridge work contractor, Crowder Construction, are continuing to study every available option to expedite the completion of the new bridge.
The detours for the closed interstate is as follows:
Motorists traveling between the Upstate to the Lowcountry on I-26 will use I-77 and I-20 to travel around Columbia. This detour will add approximately 10 miles and 20 minutes to typical travel times.
Westbound motorists traveling from Charleston will be able to access the interchanges at US 321/US21 (Exit 115), SC 302(Exit 113), and US 1 (Exit 111). All westbound traffic will exit I-26 at US 1.
Eastbound vehicles moving from the Upstate towards the Lowcountry will be able to access I-126 (Exit 108) and US 378 (Exit 110). All eastbound traffic will exit I-26 at US 378.
You can find additional information about roads, construction, and other things related to the SCDOT at their website at http://www.dot.state.sc.us.