Originally created 12/28/96

Interstate 85 bridge gets low ratings



COLUMBIA - A Spartanburg County bridge on Interstate 85 that is used by more than 400,000 vehicles a week is the worst in South Carolina, the AAA Carolinas motor club says.

The 38-year-old bridge over Gray's Creek just west of Interstate 26 is structurally deficient, but it is in no immediate danger of collapse, said the club, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association.

The bridge carries 408,100 vehicles each week, the heaviest load of any of the bad bridges.

None of the 20 bridges pose any immediate threat to motorists, the club said. The list, released this week by the motor club, is based on federal inspection ratings and weekly traffic counts.

"By publishing this list, we hope to alert motorists to bridges they use that are in need of repair or replacement," said David Parsons, president of AAA Carolinas. "We don't want to wait for an emergency or bridge closing to anger motorists."

One-fifth of South Carolina's 9,007 bridges are considered substandard, better than the national average of 32 percent.

Charleston County had nine bridges on the list, Horry County had four and Spartanburg County had three. Aiken, Beaufort, Berkeley and Dorchester counties each had one bridge on the list.

Aiken County's worst bridge - the connector between U.S. Highway 1 and the Fifth Street bridge over the Savannah River - was closed last year and an offramp was built to replace it. It was listed as the 18th worst bridge in the state.

The next Aiken County bridge on the list is on Sudlow Lake Road over the Horse Creek. The bridge, listed as the 59th worst in the state, is 34 years old and carries 28,000 vehicles a week.

The state Transportation Department estimates it needs $24 billion during the next 20 years for road and bridge projects. That is $14 billion more than is expected to be available from current sources.

Staff Writer Gregory Patterson contributed to this article.