The Laurens Street bridge could open up to traffic some time today, according to S.C. Department of Transportation officials.
The last layer of asphalt was laid down Wednesday, the lines were painted and the guard rails were ready to be installed that afternoon.
SCDOT Program Manager Kevin Gantt said, unless something “catastrophic” happens, the bridge will most likely be open today or by the very latest, Friday.
The bridge has been closed since April 2 after the southwestern corner began to sink. The entire bridge had to be replaced and the project was granted Federal Relief funds to cover 100 percent of the cost if it was completed within 180 days.
Work began in mid-June when the bridge was demolished.
The deadline was Friday and the bridge was not complete. Now, SCDOT has to pay 20 percent of the remaining cost. At the cutoff date, there was around $30,000 worth of work left, Gantt said, meaning the state will have to pay out around $6,000 while federal funds will pick up the remaining $24,000.
Originally, Gantt estimated that it would take about two weeks past deadline to have the bridge open.
“It’s really not a bad shake out,” Gantt said. “It was a huge task to get this done. We’re inside of a week (past deadline) and that’s fantastic.”
The cost of the entire project was approximately $2.5 million.
Gantt said SCDOT can assess the contractor for liquidated damages of $10,000 a day, which is stated the signed agreement. Davis and Floyd did the design work and B.K. Crowder Construction was contracted to build the bridge.
SCDOT will review that possibility as well as consider situations that were out of the contractor’s control.
Weather delays slowed construction as well as an issue with the foundation of the structure that was discovered in early August. While the foundation underwent a redesign, the heavier work halted.
Crews tried to make up the lost time by requesting a variance to the City of Aiken’s noise ordinance in August. That request was granted and crews were allowed to work from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
The new bridge is arched rather than flat like it was before.
The elevation is increased to meet new requirements by Norfolk Southern, which has a railroad track running underneath the bridge. The clearance requirements are that the bottom of the structure must be 23 feet above the railroad making the new bridge about 3 feet higher than before.
Due to the bridge’s increased elevation, the portion of Colleton Avenue that intersects with Laurens Street will be permanently closed. Colleton Avenue will remain accessible from Newberry Street.
This was not the only time the Laurens Street bridge was closed for major repairs. On Jan. 31, 1974, half of the bridge collapsed while a crew from M.L. McGee Construction Company maneuvered a crane to place a drain pipe underneath – nobody was injured.
A week after the 1974 collapse, City officials told the Aiken Standard they hoped to have it open back to traffic within 60 days. The bridge did not re-open until Nov. 24, 1975.
Years before the collapse, the bridge was closed in 1971 due to erosion and a lack of maintenance.
Erosion was cited as a cause to the most recent problems with the Laurens Street bridge. The ends of the bridge were sitting on concrete supports with dirt underneath, and the ground eroded away after heavy rains causing that corner of the bridge to fail.
After the bridge opens to traffic, there will be some minor work which is expected to be done by the end of next week.
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