After being closed for more than a week, the new $31 million Ben Sawyer Bridge connecting Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island is scheduled to reopen for Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway traffic at 6 a.m. today , the Coast Guard said Monday.
The bridge will open for waterway traffic at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. today through Thursday. There was no word on when the bridge will reopen to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.
The contract clock governing bridge closure started ticking at 7 a.m. Feb. 8, and the builder has 9.75 days from then to complete the work, officials said.
Boaters in vessels that do not require the bridge to open are allowed to travel beneath it at any time but are urged to use caution because of ongoing construction. Mariners can monitor VHF Channel 16 for any changes in the proposed scheduled openings.
On Friday, the bridge will return to normal operations for marine traffic. That means opening on signal from any vessel except from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. weekdays. On weekends and federal holidays, the bridge is required to open hourly between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
At all times, it must open for emergency vessels and tugs with tows, the Coast Guard said.
The bridge work is to replace the center swing span and approach spans and to strengthen the foundation. When the work is finished, the 12-foot-wide car lanes will be increased to 14 feet on the new bridge. The 2.5-foot-wide bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the bridge will become one 5-foot-wide path on the harbor side. The new path will be elevated 10 inches above the pavement.
Ben Sawyer Bridge inspectors have found numerous structural issues over the years.
Last year, the 124-foot bridge was closed for 72 hours so rusty steel beams supporting the 5-ton bridge-tender's house could be replaced.
In 2004, transportation engineers reduced the gross weight of vehicles allowed to cross the bridge to 20 tons from 30 tons after an inspection found "fairly significant deterioration" of floor beams and stringers.
The original bridge opened in 1945. The old swing span will be dismantled and recycled.