A day after transportation officials closed westbound Interstate 526, citing a broken cable on the James B. Edwards Bridge, large amounts of traffic crawled throughout East Cooper along detour routes on Tuesday.
The damaged cable forced officials to close that portion of the interstate for emergency repairs on the bridge, which stretches over the Wando River.
An estimated 35,000 commuters cross the bridge on an average day. The closures are expected to last at least two days.
A more thorough evaluation was expected to take at least two days, DOT officials said. Depending on those findings, the bridge running from Mount Pleasant to Daniel Island could be closed for longer, they added.
The faulty cable is one of eight main cables that comprise the span of the bridge. There are 92 cables in all.
DOT looking at scenarios to reopen portions of bridge
DOT Secretary Christy Hall said the agency doesn’t have a timetable yet but she hopes to know more for Wednesday afternoon’s briefing.
"We’re looking at scenarios that include trying to reopen portions of the bridge and scenarios of having traffic flow on the other side of the bridge,” she said. “We’re looking at ways to get the structure reopened if possible or at least shifting traffic around.”
She said the agency’s also developing a "longer term traffic flow management plan" if needed, working with local law enforcement and county officials to determine where signals need to be adjusted.
"We’ve already ID’d nine different points on detour routes to help move traffic along,” she said. “So the request we’ve made is not only for the immediate short-term but to look at, if needed, for the longer duration, what would that look like."
No major school delays
No major school delays have been announced in Charleston County on the first day after the unexpected closure of a westbound bridge on Interstate 526 scrambled traffic patterns east of the Cooper River.
The Charleston County School District said all its schools were scheduled to start at their normal times, but that it would not penalize students if they arrived at school late because of traffic delays Tuesday morning.
"Parents and staff throughout the district are encouraged to allow extra time to travel, especially for those high school students taking Advanced Placement tests on Tuesday morning," an automated phone message to parents said Monday evening.
Academic Magnet High and School of the Arts, which share a campus in North Charleston and include large numbers of students from Mount Pleasant, opened earlier than usual Tuesday morning to allow for early arrivals.
Charleston County School Board member and Mount Pleasant resident Chris Staubes said one of his children needed to get to Academic Magnet on time for the AP Calculus exam, so his wife drove him to Academic Magnet early via Highway 41, Clements Ferry Road and I-526. They arrived at 7:30 a.m. — an hour before the start of school at 8:30 a.m. His older son took the bus from Park West to Academic Magnet and arrived at 9:14 a.m.
Sarah Shad Johnson, chair of the District 2 Constituent School Board that represents Mount Pleasant public schools, said the morning routine appeared unaffected at Wando High, the state's largest high school.
"At drop off, all seemed normal. A pleasant surprise!" Johnson said in a text message.
At the private Bishop England High School on Daniel Island, Principal Patrick Finneran said the school was "very lenient" about tardies Tuesday morning, but that families had adjusted their schedules accordingly.
"We had a few kids who were late, but most of them planned ahead and took the alternate routes around," Finneran said.
Students taking AP Calculus needed to be at Bishop England by 8 a.m. to take the proctored exam for college credit. Finneran said all of those students made it to school on time.
Not the first time
This wasn't the first time that the bridge experienced issues.
In October 2016, there were limited closures on the bridge following a repair job on a cable. Ever since, the state has conducted weekly reviews of the bridge, and Monday's issue was discovered during one of those reviews.
Following the initial round of traffic jams, congestion had eased considerably by noon on the southbound lanes of the Ravenel Bridge. Motorists traveling south on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard, bound for the peninsula, were looking at an average speed of 15 mph and driving time of nine minutes.