Businesses adapt to knocked-out bridge span

Commuters normally taking Cypress Gardens Road will have to take a 22-mile detour for the better part of the next six months after a train derailed and knocked out a bridge span on the road in Berkeley County on Monday.

Many of the nearly 100 South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. employees at the Williams power generating plant in Bushy Park now have different hours.

Cypress Gardens is already experiencing a few cancellations for special events at the rural tourist attraction.

DuPont deliveries haven't been affected, but trucks now must tack on extra time and mileage to get to the company's Kevlar plant on the Cooper River.

Those are some of the effects of a CSX train derailing and knocking out a bridge span Monday on Cypress Gardens Road in Berkeley County.

State transportation officials predict it will take just under six months - even on the fast track - to rebuild the bridge. That means drivers of many of the 6,200 cars that use the road daily must make a 22-mile detour to get to their jobs in Bushy Park industrial park and to Cypress Gardens. Businesses also must adjust since there is only one way in and one way out.

At SCE&G's plant on Bushy Park Road, weekday workers now have different hours to try to avoid the added traffic on Redbank Road through the Naval Weapons Station, plant manager Tim Lucius said.

While shift workers still report at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day, maintenance and administrative staff must now be at work 30 minutes earlier, coming in at 6:30 a.m.

"The time shift saves them a little bit of time in traffic," Lucius said. The plant will return to normal work hours once the bridge is rebuilt.

Also, none of the coal plant's by-products is stored on-site, and the primary route on Cypress Gardens Road normally taken by trucks to deliver coal ash and gypsum to cement makers and the utility's landfill can no longer be used.

"That adds a good bit of mileage per round trip, and we are having to pay for that," Lucius said.

At Cypress Gardens, the "bridge out" could not have happened at a worse time.

"We typically make a majority of our income in the spring and summer," said Dwight Williams, manager of the nature preserve and popular gathering spot for community events, weddings and receptions. "We have already seen a slight downturn in our visitors, and this is our peak season."

People have been calling to get directions, but he's noticed some frustration. Detour signs haven't been erected to steer people to the attraction and its inviting, inky waters, but he said they have been promised.

At last two cancellations have occurred, Williams said. One party called off a community play set for June because they didn't want people driving the long detour late at night. Another canceled a wedding reception later this month.

"I think it definitely will affect the overall business, but once people get used to it and the road gets marked, the impact won't be as great as it is right now," Williams said.

He also said many of the 23 full- and part-time employees come from the Moncks Corner and Pimlico areas.

"This is a big hit in their pocketbooks," he said, referring the extra money being spent on gasoline to get to work.

DuPont spokeswoman Tara Stewart said the plant was affected early on when it lost potable water from the water line ruptured during the derailment, but she said water has since been restored. Since rail service came back on line earlier this week, production saw little effects.

"We do ... understand that many of our employees now have a much longer commute to work from certain areas," Stewart said. "We are looking forward to meeting with S.C. DOT next week along with other local companies to understand possible next steps."

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or