COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Residents in Ridgeway say they’ve been complaining about a local bridge for years because it’s been closed to traffic since 2015. WIS-TV has been reporting on this story since May and just learned from the South Carolina Department of Transportation that there could be a solution sooner than expected.
SCDOT first said work was scheduled to begin on the bridge in 2023. Now, officials say that project is being expedited, and could be finished by the end of next year.
When asked what was the reason behind the new timeline, SCDOT responded that it’s one of the longest closed bridges, but some residents question why that matters now, when they say they’ve been complaining for years.
About two dozen community members who live near the bridge came out to express their frustration about the nearly four-year-long closure.
One woman said, “I have called several times to ask when are they going to open this bridge. It’s been almost five years and this is where we are.”
The bridge, located at Bellfield and Blink Bonnie Roads in Fairfield County, has been closed since 2015 after an inspection deemed the bridge unsafe.
Fairfield County Councilman, Moses Bell, said the bridge is, “vital to the community.”
Residents say the closure has been not only an inconvenience – sometimes forcing drivers to take a 15-mile detour – but costly, too. In our earlier reporting, we’ve estimated this could cost drivers around $1,300 in extra gas every year.
It’s one reason why Bell says he decided to run for County Council.
“We’re tired as a community, always being put on the back burner,” Bell said.
He’s not the only resident taking action to the get the bridge fixed. While meeting at the bridge for this report, everyone there raised their hand when asked who had reached out to SCDOT for answers.
SCDOT officials first said they wouldn’t be able to begin repairs on the bridge until 2023.
“Now, they’re telling us that this bridge is going to be completed in 2020,” Bell said.
Some nearby residents say their patience has run out, even with the expedited timeline.
Bruce Elrod, who originally brought the bridge closure to the attention of WIS-TV, said, “I think they could do this bridge a lot quicker.”
Already you can see some work has started. Much of the overgrown grass and shrubs that were around the barriers have been removed.
“They must do what they say they’re going to do. Thanks to you, WIS-TV, for highlighting the importance of getting this bridge done.”
Some residents say the problem is about more than just the long detour or extra gas money. They’re also concerned about how much the bridge closure is slowing down emergency responders in the area.
Many of them are just hoping they can rely on this new 2020 timeline.