All four lanes of the new bridge over the Broad River in Columbia finally should open to traffic by mid-November, the state highway engineer supervising the project said Tuesday.
By then, the bridge linking River Drive with Broad River Road will be 11/2 years behind schedule and $6 million over budget.
And it will have taken longer to build than the Ravenel Bridge, an eight-lane suspension bridge over the Cooper River in Charleston that took four years, 2001-05.
Chris Kelly, resident construction engineer with the S.C. Department of Transportation, said the now-$25 million project was beset by unforeseen problems that included:
• Rock in the riverbed that was harder than expected, making it difficult to drill the foundations
• Heavy rains last summer that forced crews out of the river
• Asbestos in the 1928 structure that the new bridge is replacing
The contractor, Lane Construction Corp. of Charlotte, is not being penalized for the delay in completing the project, Kelly said. Work began in May 2010 to replace two older bridges with one new one.
The project also adds bike lanes, sidewalks and an overlook on each side for pedestrians. It will be lit at night.
The bridge crosses Columbia’s historic canal, a 2.6-mile waterway listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For that reason, highway officials were required to confer with the S.C. Department of Archives and History in designing the project.
It was supposed to be done in three years, by May 2013, but Kelly said it will probably be January 2015 before the site is cleaned up, grass planted and a pedestrian bridge reconnected to the main structure.
Tuesday, traffic flowed one lane in each direction.
“One side’s already done. We’re building the other half now,” Kelly said.
The work is more than half done, he said, because the foundation is complete the length of the bridge.
The delay has aggravated commuters and residents of north Columbia like Tom Clemmons, who lives in nearby Earlewood and has watched construction from his bicycle.
“They’re kind of a skeleton crew, in my opinion,” said Clemmons, who rides along the canal once or twice a day. “I really question how dedicated they are, or DOT is, to bearing down and finishing the job.”
Gil Jacobs, who was finishing up a morning run along the canal Tuesday, was sympathetic.
He said crews deserve a break for working under harsh conditions.
“As long as they get it done,” he said, “and get it done right.”