SCDOT lays out priorities for using $275M for bridges from infrastructure law

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Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:22 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:46 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -South Carolina is getting a big boost for bridges.

More than $275 million will head to the Palmetto State over the next five years for bridge improvements as part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation, which is responsible for distributing these funds, already knows how they will be used.

The department plans to put the additional money from the federal government toward projects it has already identified — and, in some cases, begun — as part of its 10-year plan to improve the state’s overall infrastructure.

“We will be using that within our existing program, with the goal of basically being able to tackle more projects as a result of it,” SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Finance and Administration Justin Powell said.

The state’s priority for bridge improvements is on reducing the number of load-posted bridges, which are safe to cross but could be overstressed by too much weight.

Powell said there are about 600 bridges of this type across the state, and SCDOT plans to replace 465 of these bridges or ones that had been closed. Of these, 217 are already under construction or have had work completed.

“Each bridge project is different and unique in terms of what’s needed to get the load posting off,” Powell said. “It could be a relatively simple repair, and that could be done in short order. If it’s a replacement of a large bridge, that could take a number of years to get it done.”

According to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2021 National Bridge Inventory, South Carolina has 745 structurally deficient bridges, 22nd most in the country.

These make up about 7.9% of all the state’s bridges, the 20th-highest percent in the U.S.

“Structurally deficient” means a bridge is in poor condition in at least one key structural element — deck, superstructure, substructure, or culverts — by earning a grade of 4 or less on a 1-to-9 scale.

However, SCDOT said this does not necessarily mean the bridge is unsafe, and all of South Carolina’s more than 8,000 bridges are inspected every two years to ensure their safety. Powell said data from these inspections is also used to determine priority for repairs or rebuilds.

“We have added this new funding to the existing funding we were already putting from state and federal sources for bridge replacements,” he said.

South Carolina will receive more than $6 billion in total over five years from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the majority of which is earmarked for road and bridge repairs.

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