I own a condominium in Barefoot Resort, which is primarily a winter residence. I make daily trips across the swing bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway and have occasionally been held up as it is opened for boat traffic. I can only imagine what it is like in summer during boating season. It has always been a concern that there is really only one practical route out of the resort although Watertower Road has been improved and does provide an alternative but lengthy escape route. This morning on my way back in to the Resort, I was stopped as the barriers came down in front of me but was amazed to see on the other side of the bridge, an ambulance leaving the resort with lights flashing to indicate an emergency. It too was stopped by the barriers as obviously the operator did not see it coming to the bridge. The ambulance was forced to turn around and find the alternate route out of Barefoot.
I know that the bridge is being repaired in the near future and as I sat there wondering what was going to happen to the person in the ambulance, I wondered why the bridge wasn't being replaced by a permanent structure such as at Grande Dunes. With today's technology and engineering skills it would be possible to remove the old bridge and install a span with sufficient clearance and it could be done overnight with hardly any down time for traffic. The access ramps are already in place and building the span with clearance for sail boats should not be too hard. I saw this done in my home town back in Canada when a roadway overpass across the six lanes of a busy expressway was replaced completely overnight and with a shutdown of the expressway for a total of six hours. The new bridge was constructed on dry land at a site nearby and then when the time came for replacement, the old structure was removed and the new one moved in and paved, all in one night. It was a marvel of engineering that it could be done and had to be done so quickly because of the chaos that would occur from closing an expressway for any length of time. This project was so successful it was repeated again later that year on another overpass that had deteriorated.
It might - make that will - cost more than a repair but it can be planned for in budgeting and get the process started. It might even become a tourist attraction more interesting than some of the others we see around town. It wouldn't hurt to at least get an engineering feasibility study done. The recent fires at Barefoot and this ambulance incident seem to show that the bridge should be replaced with a permanent structure the sooner the better. There is lots of room near by where a span can be constructed and it would have to move only a short distance. Will anyone act on it?
The writer lives in North Myrtle Beach.