DOT crews on bridge June 1

State crews clear construction materials from the James B. Edwards Bridge over the Wando River during emergency repairs in spring 2018. File/SCDOT/Provided

Cars will again travel on both sides of the James B. Edwards Bridge early Saturday morning, nearly three weeks after the westbound span was closed for emergency repairs.

The state Department of Transportation said Friday that the process for reopening the Interstate 526 bridge over the Wando River will begin at 8:30 a.m.

"When all is ready," the DOT said in a statement, "law enforcement officers will lead the first line of traffic across the westbound bridge."

That first line of traffic, the agency said, will include DOT Secretary Christy Hall and its chief engineer.

The bridge will have two lanes in both directions. Its truck lanes will remain closed as repair work continues after a primary support cable was found broken May 14 on the westbound side. Contractors replaced the line with two new ones and resealed spots where water was seeping into the structure, corroding some of the cables.

A week into the shutdown, the DOT made the eastbound side a two-lane, two-way road.

The agency will return the traffic pattern to normal and put the whole bridge back into commission more than a week ahead of its June 11 target date. It had announced the development during a briefing Thursday.

Officials said the bridge has been problematic since its opening in 1991. Over the years, rainwater has leaked into its hollow interior and onto some of the eight primary cables tying together the bridge's concrete segments.

Inspections and investigations since at least 2010 showed air voids in the cables that exposed the steel wires inside to possible corrosion. Experts linked cable damage found in 2016 and the break discovered last month to corrosion.

Workers spent Friday putting the finishing touches on resealing several spots where water was getting in. The DOT posted videos on Facebook showing the crews dumping epoxy from blue Lowe's Home Improvement buckets and using paint rollers to spread it over the concrete.

"This ... coating is a waterproofing material that will help us prevent water from intruding into the bridge deck and ... give us many more decades of life," said District Construction Engineer Kevin Turner, who oversees bridge maintenance in the Charleston region.

The DOT said Saturday's scheduled reopening is "weather permitting." The morning forecast calls for a few clouds but no rain.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414. Follow him on Twitter @offlede.

Andrew Knapp is editor of the Quick Response Team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.