Transportation for America says 13 percent of South Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient in some way, compared with 6.4 percent of Georgia’s. The study defined “structurally deficient” as an engineering rating of 4 or less to the deck, substructure or superstructure.
The difference between the two states was even sharper in the Augusta metro area.
Richmond County had the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges on the Georgia side of the metro area – 5.6 percent. The four-county area of Richmond, Columbia, Burke and McDuffie had 14 of 361 bridges deemed structurally deficient, 3.9 percent. Of those 14, 10 were in Richmond County, which has 178 bridges.
Columbia County had the lowest percentage, at 1.6 percent, with one of 62 bridges needing attention.
On the South Carolina side, Aiken and Edgefield counties had a combined 24.7 percent, with 75 of the counties’ 304 bridges being structurally deficient. Edgefield County had the highest percentage in the state, at 30.5 percent, with 39 out of 128 bridges rated as structurally deficient. Aiken County was not much better, at 20.5 percent, with 36 of the county’s 176 bridges structurally deficient.
Pete Poore, the director of communications for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, said the study isn’t exactly a revelation.
“The study doesn’t really show anything we didn’t already know, and we try to get as many obsolete bridges taken care of as we can,” he said. “The one-word answer is funding.”
The vast majority of the deficient bridges, he said, are on the list simply because of their age and are not hazardous.
Some of the Aiken County bridges were built as early as the 1920s, and roads were more narrow back then. Old bridges are commonly only 10 feet wide, but the state Transportation Department prefers bridges to be 12 feet wide, with shoulder room as well.
“We have a systematic approach,” Poore said. “There’s no knee-jerk reaction to studies like this.”