Originally created 09/07/00

Repair bridge now

Drivers are no doubt heartened to read there's not "much of a danger" as they drive across the Little River Bridge that spans Thurmond Lake.

Eighteen months ago a truck carrying a piece of logging equipment struck the overhead crossbars of the bridge, causing heavy structural damage to the bracing that provides lateral stability - stability that prevents the bridge from swaying in the wind.

Although the Little River Bridge doesn't roll like "Galloping Gertie," the infamous Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed during high winds in the Seattle, Wash., area in 1940, the fact that the only bridge linking Columbia and Lincoln counties remains damaged is not comforting as winter approaches.

The bridge isn't going to heal itself, so motorists who use it frequently will be happy to know the Department of Transportation has come up with a plan for the $250,000 fix, which will be an inconvenience to motorists. DOT engineers have three options for repairing the bridge. The first, to close the bridge entirely for three or four weeks, is not realistic. The second, closing the bridge on weekends, is just as disruptive. The third option, closing the bridge for 30 minutes at a time and doing the work during the night, is the best and least disruptive approach. It's the classic transportation dilemma of balancing construction efficiency and inconvenience to the public. It will cost more, but closing the bridge for long periods of time just won't work.

Time is of the essence and the Department of Transportation should have a real sense of urgency about these repairs. The May 1998 tornado that swept through the Lincoln County side of Lake Thurmond is a reminder that the probabilities for further wind or even tornado damage go up as the bridge is left mangled.

After DOT gets the bridge repaired, how about sending the bill to the trucking company that caused the damage? The public shouldn't have to pay for damage.


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