Replacing Cosgrove Avenue overpass

Traffic and a pedestrian use the Cosgrove Avenue overpass headed toward Rivers Avenue in North Charleston on Monday. The overpass is structurally deficient, but still considered safe. Construction on its replacement could begin as early as fall 2011.

Grace Beahm

The four-lane Cosgrove Avenue overpass that spans Meeting Street Road carries 18,000 vehicles a day, but it's structurally deficient and the state plans to replace it.

In its most recent inspection, the 55-year-old overpass received 48 points out of a possible score of 100. That means it is eligible for federal funds to pay 80 percent of the replacement costs, said James Mattox, a Department of Transportation program manager.

"It's not to the point where we've got to do something today," Mattox said of the overpass. The 800-foot-long span is safe, he said, but a new one is needed. Construction on the $15 million overpass could begin as soon as the fall of 2011.

The Transportation Department will hold a public meeting from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. today in the Mary Ford Elementary School cafeteria to present its plans for replacing the overpass.

As designed, the new span would use the same alignment with one notable difference: The plan eliminates the option of northbound drivers turning at the foot of the overpass onto Arapahoe Street. "That's probably going to be one of the most contentious issues with the project," Mattox said.

Arapahoe Street leads to businesses and homes, but northbound drivers have to slow down quickly to turn onto the street.

Chris White, an employee of nearby Metro Electric Co. Inc., said the turn from the overpass onto Arapahoe Street is dangerous and should be eliminated. "There have been I don't know how many accidents there," she said.

Comanche Street resident Leroy Rhett agreed. "A lot of people get rear-ended on that bridge," said Rhett, 51, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood. Police have posted signs alerting drivers that they can't make that turn, he said, but the signs have been stolen or knocked down over the years.

"Somebody always snaps it off. Most of the time a car hits it," he said. On Monday, there was no sign at the foot of the overpass advising that a left turn onto Arapahoe Street was prohibited.

The span will be a bit taller and extend farther along Cosgrove to Remus Street. "The safety issue is going to be fixed," he said.

Engineers debated closing the overpass to build a new one but decided that wasn't feasible because Cosgrove Avenue is so busy and is a primary route for neighborhood businesses and residents. It's also a way to get to the federal complex and North Charleston's Riverfront Park. Instead, Mattox said, the span will be closed to two lanes during construction.

The hearing tonight will be used to gather public input on the preferred design for a new overpass. Another public hearing will be held in the fall.