Broad River bridge is now open

dprice@thestate.comMay 17, 2012 

A pedestrian walks across the Broad River Bridge Wednesday. Transportation officials were forced to close the bridge after heavy rains caused a piece of construction equipment sitting on a barge next to the Broad River to shift.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

The Broad River bridge on River Drive opened to traffic at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, a little earlier than expected, after days of being closed because of concerns about construction equipment affected by heavy rains.

The bridge, which connects Broad River Road and River Drive north of downtown, was closed Tuesday night as a precaution when a rush of water from an upriver dam caused a barge supporting a large crane to shift, said REA Contracting project manager Troy Carter. REA is working on expanding the bridge from two to four lanes.

Robert St. Onge, state secretary of transportation, said the concern was whether the crane would fall on the bridge, not that the bridge itself was unstable. The rain-swollen river had destabilized the supports for the crane.

"If the crane struck the bridge because the water was rushing so hard and dislodged it, it might cause a section of that crane to fall onto the bridge," St. Onge said after Thursday’s DOT board meeting. "That was a safety issue."

St. Onge said, "It didn’t look like a stable situation. So we said cease work until we could stabilize it."

Wednesday morning’s traffic was bumper-to-bumper at times.

Crews have been working nonstop to secure the crane so the bridge can be reopened, he said.

Carter said his crews got late notice that the dam would be opening locks and sending water from heavy Upstate rains downriver and wasn’t able to completely remove the barges, which normally graze the river’s rocky bed, and the equipment they were supporting.

About 10 feet of water ran past the bridge about midnight Tuesday, and the cranes shifted precariously toward the two-lane portion of road currently open.

Parker said he is working with state officials to make sure the bridge is safe to drive on. The dam released more water Wednesday morning, he said, so water levels remain high. But once the crane is tied down the road should be safe, he said.

“We are just taking a precaution,” he said. “And sorry for the inconvenience.”

Sammy Fretwell contributed to this story.

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