Rumor has it a pickup driver was lucky—or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint—and made a brave jump across the gap that appeared just in front of his truck on the evening of Monday, April 28, as he was driving through Monck’s Corner, S.C.
Below the gap in the Cypress Gardens Road Bridge, a derailed CSX train was crashing through several of the timber piles that held up the bridge. The crash collapsed the bridge’s middle span and partially collapsed two other spans.
A local TV station talked to the pickup driver, who did not want to be identified or appear on camera. The driver was apparently unharmed, and no other people or vehicles were damaged in the derailment or the bridge collapse.
When South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) personnel arrived at the scene, they determined that the 78-year-old bridge was damaged beyond repair. They quickly started making plans to build a new bridge to restore traffic through the corridor.
Incentive to speed
“This is a largely industrial area with heavy traffic,” Thad Brunson, chief engineer for field operations at SCDOT, told ROADS & BRIDGES. The average daily traffic on the bridge is 6,200 vehicles, with trucks making up 5% of the vehicles. “It’s about a 22-mile detour, so it’s imperative for us to get this road open as soon as possible.”
CSX had its railroad debris cleared from the crash site the next day and restored rail traffic shortly after that.
It has taking SCDOT a bit longer to restore road traffic, but on June 5 the agency awarded a design-build contract worth $3.05 million to Cape Romain Contractors Inc. of Wando, S.C., to replace the Cypress Gardens Road Bridge. The contract calls for a “no excuses” completion of the bridge by Oct. 25, 2014. Additionally, incentives have been included in the contract to provide a mechanism to accelerate delivery of the completed project ahead of the Oct. 25 deadline.
Innovation in stride
Constructing a new bridge carries some challenges.
“They may have to do some soil modifications as part of the project,” Brunson said. “This is a coastal area not far from the Cooper River and Charleston area of South Carolina. It’s a coastal region with more susceptible soils.”
Since the contract is for design-build construction, Brunson did not have details on the final design of the replacement bridge. The original bridge was built in 1936 using steel beams and timber caps and piles. It was reconstructed in 1975 to widen the bridge using concrete slabs. At its latest inspection on Oct. 29, 2013, the bridge was found to be in fair to satisfactory condition. It was not structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
To expedite completion of the new bridge, SCDOT Acting Secretary Christy Hall declared an emergency situation, so emergency procurement procedures could begin immediately.
“The governor of South Carolina was very instrumental in recognizing the need to get this back and providing the emergency declaration, which allowed us to move forward with requesting the emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration,” Brunson said, “as well as going through our emergency procurement to move the project through. It’s been a very cooperative effort by all entities.”
The U.S. DOT released $1 million in federal emergency relief funds to SCDOT on May 2.
“The emergency declaration signed by Gov. [Nikki] Haley on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the bridge collapse was a significant factor in expediting FHWA emergency funding for SCDOT,” said Hall. “We greatly appreciate the governor’s help in this matter.”
Invoking the state’s emergency procurement procedures meant that SCDOT contacted a handful of bridge companies that were capable of doing the work and requested expedited bids, rather than going through the usual bidding process.
Cape Romain was the low bidder for the project, which will be funded entirely by the federal government.
Brunson said Cape Romain would have to come up with some innovative solutions to building the new bridge, including working within the current right-of-way and preserving the existing railroad clearances and roadway grade.
“The scope of the work and the size of the project, along with the contingencies they have to deal with as far as the soils and maybe the innovative structure they’re going to have to do,” Brunson concluded, “I think they’re going to have to be innovative, and they are going to have to be very diligent to work on the project to meet the Oct. 25 deadline.”