Wednesday was the end of a 48-hour evaluation period, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation provided an update on the Charleston stretch of interstate that has been closed because of emergency bridge repairs.
SCDOT and other state officials offered updates on the traffic flow and detours, and asked for patience. They also described the team of engineers and experts on hand and what they are doing to determine what caused a bridge cable to rupture, and how to best fix it.
What they couldn't provide was an exact date when the westbound lanes of the James B. Edwards bridge on I-526 would be reopening.
They do have a target date in sight, though. Officials said "temporary repairs" have begun, and officials hope the bridge and interstate will be open in four weeks.
"We are unable to open the bridge until temporary repairs have been made for at least four weeks, that's June 11 for those of you keeping score," said Leland Colvin, SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering. "Our goal today is to have the bridge open on June 11, we're going to be working 24/7 to have traffic back on the bridge."
The westbound lanes of the bridge were closed Monday after engineers discovered a snapped cable inside the structure. The same bridge had a cable damaged in 2016 and has been inspected on a weekly basis since.
"A bridge of this type requires constant maintenance, constant inspection," Colvin said.
Christy Hall, SCDOT's Secretary of Transportation said closing the bridge wasn't a decision that was made lightly, but it was of grave importance.
"It is a life-safety issue, otherwise we would not have taken the dramatic action to close this bridge," said Hall, adding that SCDOT has a three part process to get things back to normal — handle traffic, discover what went wrong and repair and reopen the bridge.
Officials still have not discovered what caused the cable to rupture, but they have a plan for temporary repairs to reopen the bridge. Colvin said permanent repairs can be made while traffic flows over the bridge.
"The temporary repairs will carry the load bearing of the bridge," Colvin said of inserting thread like tendon, or tendons, to provide instant support. "Once that is done, we will take out existing cable and go back in with a new cable."
Prior to Wednesday's news conference, SCDOT announced that the replacement cable arrived in the afternoon. It was delivered to the bridge deck, marking some of the only major traffic on the bridge since it was closed Monday.
During the 48-hour evaluation period, the inspection also uncovered some other issues. Colvin said a bridge tendon will need to be replaced and that some corrosion was discovered. He added that neither of those issues pose as critical of a problem as the ruptured cable.
An average of 35,000 vehicles cross the bridge on a daily basis, according to SCDOT. It immediately impacts commuters, and school and emergency responder vehicles from Charleston, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and Berkeley County.
"We know it created a lot of inconvenience," Hall said.
While the closure and detours have caused delays and traffic snarls so far, it will be much worse Friday.
While the closure and detours have caused delays and traffic snarls so far, it could be much worse if the bridge is not opened by Friday.
That's because Memorial Day weekend brings a large number of tourists and travelers to South Carolina's Lowcountry. Many plan to celebrate the holiday on one of the coastal beaches that are accessible by the bridge.
"I feel bad for the citizens of Charleston, I feel bad for the tourists coming to South Carolina to enjoy our beautiful coast," South Carolina Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant said at the news conference. "This is going to be an incredible inconvenience."
Bryant, who is running for governor, went on to say that South Carolina's "roads and bridges are falling apart."
Later in the news conference, Hall said SCDOT would be willing to make public all of it's records and findings — once the bridge has been repaired and reopened.
"We have ordered a complete review of our records, inspection reports. We have nothing to hide on this, we're all in this together," Hall said. "Our primary action is to get this bridge open to traffic first and foremost."