State officials will have to wait for water levels to recede to determine the flooding damage done to S.C. roads and bridges.
“We can anticipate a long period of assessment and recovery,” acting state Transportation chief Christy Hall said Monday.
To help with recovery efforts, Hall has requested $5 million in federal emergency-relief funds, a small portion of the money that eventually will be needed.
Nearly 125 Richland County roads and bridges and 45 Lexington County roads and bridges were closed Monday, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation.
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Statewide, nearly 400 roads and more than 150 bridges were closed because of flooding conditions, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division.
Approximately 100 roads and bridges were closed in the Columbia metropolitan area, Hall said.
Roads will be repaired and returned to service based on a priority system, Hall said.
Interstates will be the top priority, followed by primary U.S. and S.C. routes. High-volume, two-lane roadways that connect communities then will be restored, Hall said.
“We don’t know the extent of the damage,” said John Hardee, S.C. Transportation Department commissioner for the Midlands counties, including Lexington and Richland.
But, Hardee added, it “absolutely” will take hundreds of millions of dollars to repair the roads statewide. He said the damage will be more expensive than the 2014 ice storm, which cost South Carolina more than $167 million.
The Transportation Department will need money from the federal and state governments to absorb the cost of getting the highway system back up and running, he said.
The Transportation Department reopened Interstate 126 Monday and planned to open a section of Interstate 20 around the Monticello Road area.
As the flood waters move toward the coast, more road closures will happen, Gov. Nikki Haley said. “If there’s a road that’s open now, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay open.”
Some repairs in Richland County are estimated to be made Wednesday through Oct. 21, according to the Transportation Department.
Still some repairs across the county and state could take longer.
“It’s going to take months,” Hardee said.
North of Columbia, the state has moved into recovery phase, Hall said.
Columbia and areas south of South Carolina’s Capital City still are in response mode with many roads flooded, she said.
As flood waters travel toward the coast, there could be a wave of road and bridge closures, Hall said.
The Interstate 26 bridge over the Saluda River will remain closed due to concerns about the Saluda River’s water level.
“We’re closing any roads that aren’t safe,” Haley said.
Traffic in the Midlands was very light Tuesday with the exception of Interstate 77, Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith.
That interstate is being used as a detour for traffic diverted off Interstate 95, portions of which are closed.
As flood waters recede, Transportation Department employees are going to check the condition of the now-closed roads before reopening them, Hall said.
“Our goal is to be overly cautious,” Haley said.
Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.