Malfunctions that have caused temporary closures of the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge this week, including at least one Wednesday, are expected to be fixed over the weekend.
The breakdowns have caused several closings of the swing bridge and subsequent rerouting of traffic to the J.E. McTeer Bridge, which provides the only other vehicle access between Beaufort and Lady's Island.
Mark Hunter, an engineer with S.C. Department of Transportation, said the gearboxes for the bridge, which was built in the early 1970s, need repair. The gearboxes were sent to Griffin Gear Inc. in Spartanburg earlier this week, Hunter said, and should be back and installed this weekend.
With the gearboxes out, opening and closing the bridge requires more manual operation.
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"Openings will take slightly longer, maybe five minutes longer," Hunter said. "But if we can get through this week, then we'll be OK."
Wedges, which keep the bridge stable and are engaged when it is open to vehicle traffic, will be modified because they are often knocked out of place, Hunter said. Renovations, such as the addition of sidewalks, have changed the bridge's weight distribution, making the ends hang down farther. The modifications should fix those problems and speed the bridge's operations, Hunter said.
"You're moving a 1.4-million-pound bridge, so there's always something, and it takes a lot to make it work out right," he said.
The bridge's role as a main thoroughfare to the Sea Islands means extended closures stop the flow of traffic through downtown Beaufort. "That's why I've been telling people we have to get this bridge fixed up," he said. "It's just too crucial."
Drivers are advised to take the McTeer bridge, which spans the Beaufort River on Lady's Island Drive, if the Woods bridge is closed.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.