BRIDGE RESCUE: S.C. acts on deficient bridge issue

Funding measure allows DOT to replace 70-90 spans

November 11, 2014
Funding measure allows DOT to replace 70-90 spans bridges
Replacing bridges

Lee Floyd wants his packages to be delivered to all the zip codes that make up South Carolina.

So when the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) bridge engineer got ready to assemble his first group of ACT 98 bridge replacements—called “packages”—he made sure the coverage was as broad as possible.

“With any legislative program there are always some politics involved, and one of the things I tried to do is set up the packages starting in the northwest part of the state and I let packages going all the way down the coast,” Floyd, bridge maintenance engineer for SCDOT, told Roads & Bridges. “Now I am starting packages let in January in the upper part of the state and then I will work my way down again—that way everybody has something going on at the same time.

“Nobody can say, ‘Why are you working on the upper state and not the lower state.’”

ACT 98 funding and similar measures could someday give the SCDOT a strong upper hand when it comes to tending to structurally deficient bridges. Signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley over a year ago, ACT 98 provides the SCDOT a “nonrecurring appropriation of $50 million to be used as the state match requirement for the federal-aid bridge program.” So South Carolina money originally tapped for the federal match could be used to address closed or load-restricted bridges instead. The first package was executed this summer, and through October the total number of spans receiving ACT 98 money was 22. Another 10 were expected to be addressed in November and December, and Floyd is hoping to cover a total of 90 before all is said and done.

“I was told the other day they could guarantee my lettings through January,” said Floyd. “I have not heard about February yet. We have planned lettings through next July and depending on the cash flow and how much money is left that will determine if we could do other bridges.”

The future of ACT 98, however, is unclear, and while taking care of 90 structurally deficient bridges certainly helps, it does not come close to addressing the big picture. According to the latest FHWA numbers, South Carolina has 9,275 spans, and over 1,000 are structurally deficient.

“[ACT 98] is definitely a beneficial program, but when you compare it to the total needs in South Carolina as far as bridges go it really is just a drop in the bucket,” said Floyd.

Executing ACT 98 bridgework might take just a drop of sweat, too. SCDOT has it down to a science. According to Floyd, contractors are essentially handed a toolbox that covers the entire project. A resident engineer is on hand at the jobsite in case something has to be shifted or moved. After the piers and pier caps are cast in place, precast sections of the superstructure are slid in and post-tensioned together. Bridge lengths range from 50 ft to as long as 300 ft.

“Contractors have some questions at first, but they like the fact that we give them all the stuff they need to build the bridge and give them the flexibility to shift and move the bridge,” said Floyd.

The projects which have been completed over the past few months make it clear just how powerful a measure like ACT 98 can be, and the SCDOT is well aware of the magnitude of the final results.

“Of all the funding programs that I have ever been a part of or been aware of, I have never seen a bridge program have the eyes, ears or scrutiny that this one has had,” said Floyd. “I think everybody and their brother are looking at it.”

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