Crews are feverishly working to complete the Laurens Street bridge with the deadline quickly approaching in a little more than a week.
An unusually rainy summer and an issue with the foundation caused delays in construction, so now crews are scrambling under extended hours to complete the structure by Sept. 28.
The bridge has to be operational or open to traffic by that date because it’s the end of the 180-day period that crews have to finish the replacement project so that it’s covered 100 percent by Federal Relief funding. If crews are still working past that date, unless it’s minor cosmetic or ground work, the S.C. Department of Transportation will have to pay 20 percent of the remaining cost to finish the project, according to SCDOT program manager Kevin Gantt.
Gantt added that the consultant, B.K. Crowder Construction, is subject to be accessed for liquidated damages if the work isn’t finished on time. According to the contract, that would be about $10,000 a day from the contractor, which would offset the 20 percent the state would have to pay, Gantt said.
At this time, 90 percent of the project is complete and only 10 percent of the approximate $2.5 million the bridge replacement costs remained as of Wednesday, according to Gantt. That’s around $250,000.
He said crews are working hard to have the bridge re-opened by Sept. 28.
“They’re doing their absolute best,” Gantt said. “They’re getting close and buckling down. They haven’t given up on the date.”
If the deadline isn’t reached, Gantt said he doesn’t expect the work to go past two weeks of that date.
When looking at the structure, some may wonder how they’re going to complete the project in eight days since there isn’t anything in place to drive over as of yet. Jeff Terry of SCDOT said they expect the span, which is pre-cast, to be in this week and installed by a crane.
Terry said that the bridge will be an arch rather than flat like it was before because arches are stronger and more efficient in transferring a load.
Once the span is in place, crews will then construct the roadway over it, Terry said.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Terry said on Tuesday. “At this time, I can’t say they will make it or won’t make it. It will be very close. They still have a fighting chance and they’re fighting.”
The southwestern corner of the bridge began sinking and was closed on April 2 following heavy rains. After further inspection, it was determined the bridge had to be completely replaced.
The project was then approved for federal Emergency Relief funding and the 180-day clock started ticking on April 10.
Crews began demolishing the bridge in mid-June. In early August, the heavier work halted after an issue with the foundation of the bridge was discovered. The foundation was redesigned to ensure the structure would be stable. Davis and Floyd did the design work for this project, Gantt said.
In mid-August, B.K. Crowder Construction requested a variance to the City of Aiken’s noise ordinance which was granted allowing crews to work 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Amy Banton is the Aiken City beat reporter for the Aiken Standard. She’s a native of Rustburg, Va. and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman’s College.