A 54-year old bridge in Richland County carrying more than half a million vehicles a week is rated South Carolina’s top substandard bridge for the eleventh time, according to AAA Carolinas.
The I-26 bridge that passes over C.N. and L. Railroad, three miles northwest of Columbia, has topped the list every year except one since 2000.
Charleston County topped the list with six bridges among the top 20 substandard bridges. Richland and Lexington Counties each had three bridges in the top 20 of AAA’s list. There are four bridges on the 2012 list that were not ranked in 2011:
· I-85 over Southern Railroad & State Route 42-995 in Spartanburg County (10th)
· I-85 over State Route 2 in Spartanburg County (11th)
· US 76 over Broad River Road in Richland County (16th)
· US 301 over the North Edisto River in Orangeburg County (20th)
The SCDOT estimates that bridge maintenance, repair and replacement needs for state-owned bridges costs roughly $200 million a year. If SC DOT would replace and/or repair all the substandard bridges in the state, it would roughly cost approximately two billion dollars. That number has increased from $850 million in 2003.
South Carolina’s gas tax is the main funding supply for the SC Department of Transportation and has been unchanged since 1987.
“It's less expensive to keep bridges in good repair than it is to replace them,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “The state legislature needs to step up and find a way to increase the revenue streams South Carolina’s bridges and highways clearly need.”
Secretary of Transportation Robert St. Onge said, “All SC open bridges are safe for use by the motoring public within whatever restrictions are posted.”
The percentage of South Carolina bridges rated substandard decreased from 23 percent in 2011 to 20 percent this year. There are currently 1,880 substandard bridges in the state.
For 15 years, AAA Carolinas has been rating the state’s substandard bridges to highlight the need for legislative funding.
South Carolina has a lower percentage of substandard bridges than neighboring North Carolina’s 32 percent, but other southeastern states, including Tennessee (14 percent) and Georgia (14 percent), have done a better job addressing their bridge and road needs.
AAA Carolinas’ 2012 South Carolina bridge rankings found:
* The average age of AAA’s top 20 substandard bridges is 57 years old, six
years older than the average age (51) of substandard bridges last year.
* The top 20 substandard bridges on AAA’s list carry an average of 52,320
None of South Carolina’s substandard bridges are in danger of collapsing or pose an immediate threat to motorists at this time.
SC DOT identifies bridges in need of repair through an aggressive inspection and analysis program. Each bridge is inspected bi-annually and if a structure is determined to be in urgent need of repair, corrective action begins as soon as possible. Each year several hundred state bridges are posted with weight restrictions limiting their use.
Substandard bridges are officially classified under federal guidelines as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” with AAA Carolinas assigning extra weight to traffic volume to highlight bridges affecting the most motorists.
“Structurally deficient” is defined as being in relatively poor physical condition and/or inadequate to handle truck weight.
“Functionally obsolete” is defined as having inadequate design for current traffic volume. States inspect bridges to determine their condition and qualify for federal aid replacement funds when a bridge scores less than 50 on a 100-point scale.
AAA Carolinas receives substandard bridge data from the SC DOT and then uses an additional formula involving average daily traffic to select the top 20 substandard bridges that affect the largest number of motorists. AAA Carolinas also removes culvert structures for the purposes of this report. The data used for this report is dated March 28, 2012.
An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.
Editor’s Note: A complete county listing of ratings for all the state’s bridges, substandard bridges are below.SC Substandard Bridges 2012 FINAL TOP 20.pdfComplete List of SC Bridges - Original SC 2012 Data.xlsx