South Carolina Seeks I-95 Bridge Replacement Funds

Map of Gooding Bridge over Lake Marion
Map of Gooding Bridge over Lake Marion. (Google Maps)

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The South Carolina Department of Transportation has applied for a $161 million federal grant to replace the Interstate 95 bridges over Lake Marion.

The department is applying for the federal Bridge Investment Program’s large bridge grant.

If approved, the grant would pay for about half of the total bridge project of about $331.5 million. The grant application window is for five years.

The rest of the project will be paid for with state dollars, according to SCDOT officials.

“The I-95 bridges over Lake Marion are critical linkages in the nation’s transportation network, moving both people and freight. Increasing freight and traffic volumes necessitate the eventual replacement of the bridges,” SCDOT wrote in its application for the money.

“This is not only a safety issue for the community, but it also has tremendous economic impacts on the community, state and nation when lanes must be closed for repair or accidents,” SCDOT said.

The bridges also serve as an evacuation route in the event a coastal hurricane is projected to make landfall.

Approximately 38,900 vehicles, including freight, travel over the bridge daily, according to SCDOT.

The current I-95 bridges over Lake Marion were built in 1968.

The WJ Gooding Memorial Bridge, named after a well-respected bridge engineer from South Carolina, is about 3,500 feet long. It connects Orangeburg and Clarendon counties.

The bridge replacement is a part of SCDOT’s 2021-2027 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

SCDOT had originally planned for officials to travel to Washington, D.C., to engage with the U.S. Department of Transportation, but the trip was canceled due to Hurricane Ian. SCDOT is rescheduling the trip with plans to meet USDOT officials regarding the proposal.

SCDOT Chief of Staff Justin Powell said the department has spent about $3 million over the last five years maintaining the two bridges over the lake as well as the overflow bridges.

Powell said the bridges are safe.

“We inspect every bridge in the state to make sure they are safe,” Powell said.

He said the bridge replacement is needed because the current bridges are old and not constructed according to modern designs. For example, modern highway shoulders are large enough where vehicles can pull off in the event of an accident and not block traffic.

The closure of a bridge would mean an approximately 60-mile detour for freight traffic and about a 40-mile to 50-mile detour for local traffic, according to SCDOT officials.

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The grant will be used in the development phases of the project, including environmental reviews, preliminary engineering, design work, environmental mitigation (if needed), seismic protection and construction.

SCDOT says the project will be completed via a design-build process, which will accelerate construction with a targeted construction start in 2024. The project’s completion would be targeted for 2028.

The federal money is part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden in November 2021.

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