VAUCLUSE - Life has become pretty inconvenient for Frances Spires.
Although it usually takes her 10 minutes to get to her doctor's office or the store, she says it now takes her 30 minutes.
Ms. Spires, 67, a Vaucluse resident, also laments that she can't attend church, which is five minutes away, because it takes too long to get there.
She takes breathing treatments and it's hard for her to drive long distances, she said.
The reason for Ms. Spires' inconvenience is that a secondary road near her home has been closed because of replacement work being done on a 60-foot-long, 13-foot-wide bridge located over a dam.
The steel bridge with timber decking, located on Secondary Road 105 in Vaucluse, was closed last week because the decking was rotting and contained holes, said Ron Hutson, a bridge maintenance engineer with the state Department of Transportation.
The bridge was also load-restrictive for several years, which meant neither school buses nor big trucks could cross over it. The heaviest thing allowed on the structure was a loaded pickup truck.
The new bridge won't be load-restrictive.
Construction is expected to last no later than September when school starts, he said.
The DOT is paying $190,000 to replace the structure.
"We regret any inconvenience," Mr. Hutson said. "There's no other way to do it."
Phil Napier, chief of the Graniteville-Vaucluse-Warrenville Volunteer Fire Department, disagrees.
He said because the bridge has closed, the people living in the 35 homes near it would be in grave danger if a fire started.
"If there's a fire in that area it's going to be bad," he said. "If there is a serious medical call it could be a problem."
Wallace Holden, assistant shift manager for the Aiken County Emergency Medical Service, agreed but said the closed bridge hasn't posed a problem for EMS thus far.
Nor has it been a problem for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, said Lt. Michael Frank, spokesman.
"(Officers) take Bettis Academy Road almost to Edgefield County and then Old Vaucluse Road back into Vaucluse," he said. "That's 10 miles out of the way. It just takes a little longer to get there."
Since the bridge was load-restrictive, no fire trucks were able to cross over it. The situation has been made worse now that the bridge has closed, Chief Napier said.
"One fireman at least could cross in his personal vehicle to save a life, but now everybody has got to go 10 miles," he said.
That's also the case for elderly churchgoers at Vaucluse Road Church of God, said Pastor Derrick Cutter.
Mr. Cutter said members who live less than a mile from the church have to travel 15 miles to worship. He added that they also have to travel that distance to make it to the post office.
"It's going to be real rough the next few months," Mr. Cutter said. "But it'll be worth it in the long run. It'll give the people in the community fire protection and bus transportation. But it's going to be a real headache between now and then."
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