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DOT monitored 526 Wando Bridge damage for nearly 2 years, restricted trucks for months

I-526 West (FILE, WCIV)

Before the S.C. Dept. of Transportation closed the I-526 westbound lanes on the Wando Bridge Monday for a broken support cable, the agency had been restricting freight truck traffic on the bridge for months, and engineers had been doing weekly site inspections for well over a year.

The initial closure, which is expected to last at least 48 hours, is reportedly for assessments by DOT in preparation for making necessary repairs to the bridge. It's unclear when actual repairs will happen or how long they'll take, so the long-term timetable for the closure is unknown.

DOT ordered the bridge closed at 2 p.m. Monday, at least two hours after initially discovering the broken cable in the bridge's underlying support structure. DOT said engineers doing a weekly inspection of the bridge found the broken cable in the morning. No specific time was given for the discovery.

According to DOT, the bridge was not closed immediately after the discovery because engineers first had to research if the cable rupture necessitated closing the bridge. Once they discovered it did, DOT had Mount Pleasant Police close traffic, it says.

It's unclear how long traffic was allowed to continue driving over the bridge after DOT first discovered the broken cable.

Weekly mandated inspections of the Wando Bridge have been ongoing for nearly two years because of a similar issue, DOT officials say. In October 2016, DOT says it found a damaged cable under the bridge. The cable was repaired in early 2017.

According to DOT, the bridge has passed each weekly inspection and two yearly inspections since the original damage was found. No damage was found in a weekly inspection prior to Monday's discovery. DOT says the last yearly inspection was completed in April.

However, DOT had been restricting truck traffic on the westbound lanes of the bridge for six months, starting in November 2017. Trucks were only allowed to use the right lane of the bridge as of Nov. 5, 2017, with DOT citing its ongoing response to the the damaged cable for the restrictions.

Transportation officials said the lane restrictions were to last 90 days while contractors inspected and tested all other cables on the bridge. The lane restrictions still were shown as active on DOT's traffic monitoring site, 511SC.org, as of 2:30 p.m. Monday. The restriction notice since has been removed.

The bridge closure resulted in lengthy increases to afternoon commutes for many leaving Mount Pleasant Monday. Traffic leaving Mount Pleasant on I-526 west is being detoured off the freeway at Long Point Road.

The Wando Bridge, formally named the James Burrow Edwards Bridge, was designed by FIGG Bridge Group, and went into service in 1991.

FIGG also designed the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that collapsed during construction March 15, 2018, resulting in six deaths.

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