Statement on S.C. bridges from S.C. Department of Transportation

In light of the tragic event that occurred Wednesday in Minnesota, the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s (SCDOT) Secretary of Transportation-nominee H.B. “Buck” Limehouse, Jr. has issued the following update concerning the status of South Carolina’s bridges.

Limehouse said, “South Carolina has a critical need for funding in terms of maintaining the bridges and highways in our state, but we are doing everything possible to make sure that all bridges can be used safely.” He added, “Safety is our highest priority, and no one in South Carolina will travel over a bridge this unsafe to use.”

-- SCDOT maintains and inspects a total of 8,330 bridges. Of those structures, 1,033 are Structurally Deficient.

-- A “Structurally Deficient” bridge is one that is defined as: When the condition of the bridge does not meet the standards of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). However, this does not imply that the bridge is unsafe, or needs to have the load restricted.

-- SCDOT maintains 776 bridges that are classified as Functionally Obsolete. A “Functionally Obsolete” bridge does not meet the FHWA codes for providing a certain level of service. One example is an older bridge that has lanes that are narrower than today’s standards.

-- Substandard Bridges are structures that may be both Structurally Deficient and Functionally Obsolete. However, if that bridge falls into both classifications, only the “Structurally Deficient” criteria is counted. The total of “Substandard Bridges in South Carolina stands at 1,809. This number is found by adding the total of “Structurally Deficient” and “Functionally Obsolete” bridges.

-- SCDOT engineers have placed 138 bridges in the category of “Load Restricted,” meaning vehicles surpassing the maximum weight allowed on one of these bridges are prohibited from using the bridge.

-- SCDOT engineers have declared 10 bridges in the state highway system closed to all traffic.

-- SCDOT conducts a regular schedule of inspections on all bridges in the state highway system as required by the FHWA for all states. These codes have been in effect since the 1970s. The schedule is as follows:

-- All non-load restricted bridges are inspected every two years.

-- All load-restricted bridges are inspected every year.

-- Bridges with underwater pilings are supposed to be inspected every five years according to FHWA codes. However, SCDOT’s policy is to examine bridges of this type every four years.

SCDOT makes over 6,000 inspections per year of state-owned structures. This number includes those bridges that are monitored more frequently to ensure the safety of the public. Additionally, SCDOT performs approximately 65 underwater inspections per year.

The current financial need for SCDOT to replace the current list of Structurally Deficient and Functionally Obsolete bridges over a period of 20 years is approximately $2.9 billion.