State authorities shifted resources to Interstate 26 on Tuesday after accidents last week created nightmarish commutes for thousands of motorists who fear repeated traffic woes during the Wando River bridge shutdown.
A broken support cable forced the closure of the James B. Edwards Bridge on westbound Interstate 526 on May 14. The state Department of Transportation later made the eastbound span a two-way, two-lane road.
But that measure clogged up I-526, prompting some eastbound travelers to take I-26 instead. A serious crash Thursday morning backed up both highways, leaving commuters with no easy options to quickly reach their destinations from Summerville and North Charleston.
While 13 state law officers and DOT assistance trucks were posted round the clock on I-526, no such measures were put into place on I-26, officials told The Post and Courier last week. Instead, the authorities responded to wrecks and stalled motorists as they would on a normal day.
As of Tuesday, though, state crews are standing at the ready along I-26 during daily rush hours, too.
"This effort is to be more responsive to moving traffic during those peak hours," the DOT said in a statement.
The move was a reaction to the conditions officials saw last week, agency spokesman Pete Poore added.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey had voiced concerns about the slowdowns commuters were seeing in their treks to downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Earlier last week, he pushed for one-way traffic on eastbound I-526 during peak morning commute times, though the DOT rejected the idea as unsafe.
Thursday's crash on the Charleston stretch of I-26 sent five people to hospitals and worsened the traffic problem, backing up cars for 15 miles to the Ladson area.
While I-526 slowed Tuesday on both sides of the two-lane portion, fewer tie-ups on I-26 were reported during the morning rush hour despite increased traffic. DOT data showed that nearly 22,000 vehicles used I-26 between 7 and 11 a.m. Tuesday near the Dorchester Road interchange — about 3,000 more than average.
The bridge closure initially spawned gridlock for westbound commuters in East Cooper but the DOT built crossover lanes that allowed two-way traffic on I-526, shifting those headaches to the North Charleston area.
State officials have reported no problems in efforts to repair the troubled span. The crews were replacing the snapped cable with three new ones to shore up the bridge beleaguered by water intrusion and corrosion.
The DOT is scheduled to issue a public update late Thursday afternoon, when officials also plan to give details on the bridge's inspection history.