New Leaphart Road bridge open for business after rebuilding closure

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's a bridge that carries a whole lot of people from the Lexington area toward Columbia – but for the past ten months or so – the Leaphart Road Bridge over I-26 has been missing.

Because of that, when Jennifer Miller drives to a lot of places, she's had to detour. She's not alone.

"I have a son that's a junior at B-C, and we looked at 378, and I said, 'I'm more terrified of him being on 378 with Lexington Medical.' So, he goes down Highway 1, and it's not quite as bad, but it's still bumper-to-bumper either way you look at it," she said.

Detours have been a way of life since last March when a tall truck took the nearby Leaphart Road Bridge out of commission. It wasn't the first time the old bridge had been hit. But, the 2017 strike was severe.

"After the last truck strike, it was so severe that we had to take that bridge out of service," said Robert Power, a resident construction engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation in Lexington County.

Power said there was a plan all along to replace the bridge, but after it was forced to close, something changed:  contractors started building the new one more aggressively.

"Even though this is a two-lane road, there's, you know, a tremendous volume of traffic that uses or normally used this road," he said.

SCDOT aimed to open the new bridge before the end of 2017, then Jan. 16, and now Jan. 26.

That's music to Miller's ears.

"I know that the weather has not been cooperating, and I know that they're working hard on it. I do see it," she said.

SCDOT said Chris Drive south of Leaphart reopened Friday. At that time, the north side will close.

The portion of Harbor Drive – on the other side of the bridge – will also remain closed until later in the year.

Engineers have to raise those roads to the new height of the taller Leaphart Road Bridge.

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