FAIRFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - It had been one of the longest bridge closures in the state with repairs initially scheduled to begin in 2023. Recently, that bridge in Fairfield County reopened and sooner than expected.
WIS-TV has been following this closure for the last year. Officials with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) say the bridge was closed shortly after the historic floods in 2015. Several bridges throughout the state were inspected after the floods and the bridge located near Bellfield and Blink Bonnie Roads was shut down after being deemed unsafe.
“Thank God for the bridge,” exclaimed one nearby resident when several citizens of Ridgeway gathered at the newly reopened bridge, Thursday. Many expressed how grateful they are to see vehicles once again driving across after nearly five years of having to take a detour.
“They had to take that traffic, go back up, then come back down, then go around,” explained Fairfield County District One Councilman Moses Bell, who says he ran for office in part because of this bridge closure.
He said residents were having to drive as many as 15 miles out of the way since the bridge closed in 2015.
Cleola Gadson lives nearby and said, “I used to go to Walmart every other day, but I cut it down to once a week.”
“We sent letters after letters after letters to the Department of Transportation,” said Bell.
When WIS-TV first covered this story in 2019, SCDOT initially said repairs on the bridge were scheduled to begin in 2023. Not long after our coverage, the department said the repairs were being expedited and would be complete by the end of 2020.
Residents say it wasn’t until after our story aired that they began to see that work get underway, and just days ago the bridge officially reopened.
Community members say having the bridge back open is a gas saver and also much more convenient.
“In this neighborhood, you have mostly senior citizens. We don’t like to drive a long distance – we’re senior citizens – to get to the grocery store, to get to the doctor, to get wherever and this has made it so much better,” said Lula Addison who also lives not far from the bridge.
Councilman Bell said he doesn’t believe the work would have been done this soon if it were not for the news coverage.
“Thank you WIS TV 10 for bringing light to this situation. When this bridge was opened, it was almost like kids with new toys Christmas Day. That’s how much it meant to this community,” said Bell.
SCDOT said one reason behind the expedited repairs was that this was one of the longest bridge closures in the state.