Facing new rush-hour gridlock in North Charleston, Mayor Keith Summey asked the state to partially undo its temporary traffic solution to the emergency shutdown of a Wando River bridge.
The reversal of a single lane on Interstate 526 — allowing traffic to flow in both directions on the eastbound side — transplanted the Mount Pleasant area's traffic headaches to North Charleston, Summey said Tuesday.
North Charleston officials were never included in discussions about whether the measure would become an overall benefit to commuters traveling between Mount Pleasant and Charleston, he said.
Summey called for crossover traffic to be barred at peak morning travel times between 6 and 9 o'clock, when North Charleston residents are trying to get to work in East Cooper.
"I guess they felt like North Charleston wasn’t going to be hit," the mayor said. "But we have a lot of people who work in Mount Pleasant. ... They, like everyone else, are going to have to fight to get back but it doesn't make sense to make them suffer trying to get over there."
Gov. Henry McMaster, meanwhile, called for an independent audit of state records on the bridge and other troublesome spans "to maintain public confidence" in the S.C. Department of Transportation.
The DOT started considering the crossover measure on the day last week when its inspectors found a snapped support cable in the James B. Edwards bridge on westbound I-526, prompting the span's closure. A directive from McMaster penned shortly after local officials aired concerns about the effort hastened the move.
Commuters and truckers using the new two-way pattern on the open eastbound side saw about 40 minutes added to their travels Monday, the DOT said. Traffic backed up for miles east of the Wando River and tied up portions of Interstate 26.
It hadn't changed much Tuesday, a DOT spokesman said.
But officials said it was the right move.
"The governor's priority is the area as a whole," said Brian Symmes, a spokesman for McMaster. "The governor is going to act in a way that benefits the most South Carolinians. All of these factors were considered."
McMaster on Tuesday wrote DOT Secretary Christy Hall seeking an outside audit and answers to pressing questions "to reassure public officials and the public at-large that all South Carolina bridges are safe and properly maintained."
Hall already had directed an internal task force to review agency records, including emails, promising to release the information publicly in the coming weeks. But the governor said he wants an outside expert to pore over the files and audit procedures for inspecting and maintaining the state's nearly 8,500 bridges.
McMaster said the findings should be made public.
Any audit is not expected to jeopardize the DOT's search for documents that could set minds at ease about the troubled span or pose further questions about the state's deficient bridges.
The file that the DOT is compiling should aid a thorough review, Hall said Tuesday.
"We pledge to fully cooperate," she said.
McMaster asked the agency to explain how it has handled past damaged cables, give details of national experts' opinion of the span's troubled past, divulge any risk of failure and say whether the bridge can fulfill its life expectancy.
The governor did not ask, though, why the state failed to inform local officials of the potential of finding a broken cable, a discovery the region learned last week would prompt the bridge's quick shuttering.
Damage to a cable spurred repair measures in late 2016 and weekly inspections to uncover more damage. A review on May 14 found a break in one of eight main concrete and steel cables holding together the nearly 30-year-old span's segments.
The bridge is slated to reopen June 11.
DOT officials plan Wednesday to give an update on the repair.
Though North Charleston is seeing new traffic problems, the DOT has touted the crossover traffic on the bridge as largely successful. Officials said major arteries that were clogged last week, namely the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, had sped up to a pace that falls in line with historical averages.
DOT spokesman Pete Poore said the detour routes should become more efficient as drivers get accustomed to the changes. The state gave no immediate plans to undo the reversal.
"It’s moving; it’s fine," Poore said. "But we’re hoping it gets better every day."