An aging bridge that has served motorists on their way to Harbor and Hunting islands for 75 years is scheduled for replacement.
The S.C. Department of Transportation is looking for an engineering firm to design a fixed-span replacement for the moveable bridge over the Harbor River in northeastern Beaufort County, according to the department's website.
The half-mile span is the only vehicle bridge that connects St. Helena Island to Harbor Island.
DOT officials are expected to hire a firm this year to begin designing and permitting the new bridge, county traffic engineer Colin Kinton said.
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Construction is still about four years away, Kinton said.
"I think the funding is (expected) in fiscal year 2017, so we're looking at a couple years for design and permitting, and it'll take a couple years to build," he said.
The project will be funded through the federal bridge-replacement program and managed by DOT, Kinton said.
The current Harbor River bridge was built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration, one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs to put people to work during the Great Depression. Its completion is commemorated on a plaque at the foot of the bridge, Kinton said.
Only boats from a pair of private docks and the Gay Fish Co., which has a dock upstream of the span, regularly pass underneath, and the vertical-lift bridge setup is now obsolete, Kinton said.
A new design will include safety shoulders and sidewalks, which will make it safer for motorists and emergency vehicles, he added.
"If you have ever crossed over to Harbor Island, it's a nail-biting experience," Kinton said. "Those lanes are only about nine feet wide, if that."
The fixed bridge design will also better withstand major storms and ensure access to the islands should a major storm or hurricane hit the area, Kinton added.
"It's served it's life, and it's time to go with something that's a little more resilient to storms," he said.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.