Boat traffic at Socastee swing bridge expected to increase Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day weekend often means an opportunity to boat along the Intracoastal Waterway, but it also means vehicular traffic delays at one of the area’s more popular swing bridges.

Josh Martin, of Forestbrook, is all too familiar with the delays caused by the swing bridge on Dick Pond Road in Socastee. He lived in the area for years, moved away, and bought a home just off Forestbrook Road about five years ago. He said he has seen an increase in the number of times the bridge has opened the last few years compared to years past, and said he saw the swing bridge open four times within one hour during a recent trip to a local restaurant.

“It’s like every year it gets worse and worse,” Martin said. “Four times an hour. That’s ridiculous. I don’t know how the flow of traffic can safely move through there.”

Dennis Townsend, district engineering administrator for the S.C Department of Transportation’s District 5, said he can see where Martin may have observed more boat traffic recently considering March, April and May tend to be busier months. But he said the S.C. DOT hasn’t changed its rules for opening the bridge; it follows rules set by the U.S. Coast Guard that requires the bridge to open when boat traffic approaches.

“Some years there may be more boats than others,” Townsend said. “The number of times it opens is totally dependent on how many boats go down the waterway.”

Statistics on how often the bridge opens were not available this week from DOT.

With sunny skies and highs in the lower 80s all holiday weekend, Townsend said motorists should be prepared with alternative routes.

“There’s going to be more people on the waterway, so expect it to open more than it has before,” Townsend said.

He said motorists should be prepared to take the Benjamin E. Thrillkill Bridge, known locally as S.C. 544.

“Thrillkill bridge is right beside it. That bridge was built for that,” Townsend said. “In fact, the alternative route should be the swing bridge unless you’re needing to directly be around the businesses or homes around the swing bridge.”

The local residents are precisely who Martin would like area officials or Coast Guard officials to think of by regulating the bridge to open at 15 minutes and 45 minutes after the hour.

“The draw bridge is like local traffic,” Martin said. “The big bridge is if you’re going to Conway or if you’re here on vacation or if you’re driving a commercial 18 wheeler.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard could not be reached for comment Friday.

Martin said he’ll continue to avoid the swing bridge as he travels north on S.C. 707 and he approaches the Dick Pond Road intersection.

“Usually, if I can, I’ll look in my rear view mirror and if there’s no traffic behind me, I’ll start slowing down at that green light and I’ll turn my head to the left and as soon as I see a red light at the bridge, I swerve over and turn right,” Martin said.