COLUMBIA - The state Department of Transportation is trying to save some of South Carolina's historic bridges, but finding them new homes has proved tricky, so far.

Bridge relocation specifics

Under South Carolina's new bridge relocation program, the state will help pay for:

Match-marking and disassembling the bridge.

Transporting it to a new location.

Off-loading it and stockpiling it at its new site.

In turn, the bridge recipient must:

Sign a legal agreement waiving the state's future liability.

Pay to reconstruct the bridge in its original form within a year of receiving it.

Post a performance bond and allow the State Historic Preservation Office to make an archaeological assessment of its new site.

Maintain the bridge for 20 years to federal preservation standards.

Allow the public to visit the bridge.

Not object to the bridge's listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the past year, it almost struck a deal to move a one-lane truss bridge near Enoree, on the Spartanburg-Union county line, but a nearby town couldn't finance the move. It's set to be removed and replaced soon.

And the state currently is seeking a group interested in moving the Jones Ford-Barrell Stave Road bridge - a little down river on the Laurens-Union county line. Still, no one has stepped forward with a plan and the deadline is May 2, said David Kelly of the S.C. Department of Transportation.

"I've had some people contact me and say, 'This is great, I'm passing this on to X,' but I haven't had a proposal yet," he said. "It's not for the fainthearted. We want to see this happen, but it takes some doing on the local end."

Both of those bridges are almost a century old and are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. They also are narrow, deteriorating and nearing the end of their functional lives -at least for car and truck traffic.

To lessen the historic loss, the state is trying to give away these bridges so they can be preserved, most probably as part of a larger walking or biking path.

And to lure potential partners, the state is willing to contribute the same amount of money toward moving them that it otherwise would have to spend to demolish them. In the case of the Beaverdam Church Road bridge near Enoree, that sum would have been $110,000. Kelly said the sum likely will be more for the Jones Ford bridge, which has two lanes instead of one.

Kelly and Mary McCahon, a senior historian with TranSystems, a Florida engineering firm, outlined the status of this and South Carolina's other bridge preservation efforts earlier this week at the Statewide Historic Preservation Conference.

The news was not all bad. The circa 1928 Glendale Bridge, which connects a mill village with Spartanburg's eastern suburbs, is scheduled to be rehabilitated soon with a mix of federal, state and local money. This truss bridge was given to the county in 1970s, and has been closed to traffic for about a decade. It's set to be renovated as a pedestrian and bike route as well as a scenic overlook.

And Sumter's Manning Avenue Bridge is set for refurbishment instead of demolition, with a new bike and pedestrian lane and only three lanes of traffic, instead of four.

"All these success stories have lots to do with locals wanting it to happen" Kelly said.

In contrast, few in Charleston or North Charleston spoke up in favor of saving the Five Mile Viaduct bridge in the Neck Area - a 1926 concrete and steel bridge that was supported by Gothic arches and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

That bridge, along U.S. Highway 78 between King Street Extension and Rivers Avenue, was torn town last summer.

"When it's just DOT behind bridge replacement or rehab, and there's no local traction for it, it doesn't really go anywhere," Kelly said.

The state's recent preservation focus has been on trying to save steel truss bridges, which are more common in the Upstate and which are relatively portable, unlike, say, a concrete bridge.

McCahon said South Carolina completed an inventory of its most historic and endangered bridges in 1981, and that survey was updated about a dozen years later.

The state has lost many bridges during the past 33 years, but about 45 metal truss bridges remain in use today across the state.

"I can't stress how common a fixture the metal truss bridges were in our landscape," she said. "The same design was repeated over and over as agents marketed them to states and counties. It was the technology available for longer span lengths over 60 feet."

Kelly said he is preparing to seek new owners interested in relocating three more similar truss bridges. He said at some point, the state could consider moving them to a storage site and mothballing them there, but there are no such plans at this point.

McCahon said another way to preserve historic bridges is to leave them in place and build a new bridge alongside them, adding that the most promising preservation opportunities are those bridges serving local streets and lightly traveled routes.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.