The beginning stages of several bridge projects in Aiken County are underway, and the bridges could be under construction in the next few years.

At least five bridges in the county are on the S.C. Department of Transportation’s list to be replaced or rehabilitated.

The three replacement projects include the U.S. 278 bridge located over Three Runs Creek as well as the Union Street and Fairfield Street bridges, both in Aiken.

SCDOT Project Manager Kevin Gantt said the U.S. 278 bridge is being designed by Davis and Floyd in Greenwood and construction could cost an estimated $4.5 million. Gantt said he anticipates construction to start in early 2015.

The Union and Fairfield street bridges are in the early stages of design, and construction is not expected to commence before 2015, Gantt said. Construction of each could cost approximately $700,000.

Gantt said the Union Street and Fairfield Street bridges, which are both over a railroad, may be subject to some right-of-way acquisition. This is because of clearance requirements that were updated by Norfolk Southern, which means these bridges will potentially have to be constructed higher.

The two rehabilitation projects include a bridge on Bettis Academy Road that crosses over I-20, which is estimated to cost $500,000, and the structure on Sand Bar Ferry Road at Savannah River, which could be about $2.4 million. Gantt said these are two of 50 bridges that SCDOT plan to rehabilitate, and work is expected to start in 2015.

“These rehabilitations are a part of an effort to extend the life of our bridges by deferring the costs of replacing the entire structure,” Gantt said in an email.

In early June, the AAA Carolinas released its annual substandard bridge report and a total of 54 of the 172 bridges in Aiken County are on that list. All but one of the five bridges on SC-DOT’s to-do list are considered substandard – the Sand Bar Ferry Road structure is not included.

Substandard bridges are deemed structurally deficient and/or functionally obsolete. Structurally deficient is defined as “being in relatively poor physical condition and/or inadequate to handle truck weight,” according to a press release from AAA. Functionally obsolete means having inadequate design for current traffic volume, the release reads.

Substandard doesn’t mean a bridge is too hazardous for vehicles to travel upon; SCDOT officials will close down any bridge they find unsafe.

Amy Banton is the city beat reporter and has been with the Aiken Standard since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman’s College.