Emergency funds needed to replace Aiken bridge at risk of collapsing

Laurens Street bridge damage

Laurens Street bridge damage

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, April 6, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Racing against possible rain, South Carolina Department of Transportation workers and contractors chip away chunks of asphalt from the collapsing Laurens Street Bridge.

"The weather's not helping. You know, it's just not a good situation," said Mary O'Hare, the owner of M.B. Jewelry And Beads in Downtown Aiken.

Day to day, the bridge is a major artery for her.

"I travel that bridge daily, because I live on the South side, and you know, that's how I found out," she said.

Now, she fears she'll be taking a detour for a while -- on either Newberry, Chesterfield, or Union Street -- along with lots of other people.

"Traditionally, Union Street and Newberry Street haven't had a lot of those horse trailers come over. They generally went over Laurens Street, and now they're going over those bridges," O'Hare said.

SCDOT discovered the problem Monday morning after a weekend of rain showers. They were alerted to deep cracks on the bridge and had to shut it down. SCDOT says the rain severely eroded dirt holding one end of the bridge up, and as that end settled, it essentially broke the bridge in two.

After more rain the next day, the bridge had sunk almost 20 inches.

A spokesman from SCDOT tells News 12 that the whole bridge will have to be replaced. He says today workers are under an emergency contract to hopefully prevent the whole bridge from collapsing on the railroad underneath. He says SCDOT is also working with the Governor's Office and the Federal Highway Administration to find the funds to make permanent repairs.

"I hate to say this, but DOT is not proactive. They react," said O'Hare.

As mentioned, there is a railroad underneath the bridge. News 12 spoke with a representative at Norfolk Southern, and he says the railroad is still open. He says they have an employee on site to monitor the situation.

SCDOT should release more info early next week about a timeframe for permanent repairs.

To read to most recent press release from SCDOT, click here.

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