Construction to replace the rapidly aging bridge over Jarvis Creek on Spanish Wells Road should start next spring, a state Department of Transportation official said Monday.
A longer, wider bridge will take the place of the nearly 60-year-old span on Hilton Head Island, which was deemed structurally deficient.
The DOT plans to build the new bridge east of the current one, program manager Alan Matienzo said.
Plans call for the 75-foot-long bridge to be replaced with a 480-foot span that adds paved shoulders and parapet walls on either side of two, 12-foot-wide lanes.
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Shifting the bridge to the east, on the opposite side of the boardwalk, and lengthening it should mean less disturbance to wetlands and creek beds, Matienzo said.
The DOT still needs to buy half an acre from Beaufort County and the Town of Hilton Head Island for the project, including a right of way to connect the new bridge to Spanish Wells Road, he said.
About 80 percent of the estimated $4.5 million project would be paid for with federal highway dollars and the rest with state funds, he said.
The bridge will be named after Charles Simmons Sr., a native islander who operated the first mechanized ferry from Hilton Head to Savannah.
Town engineers said the new bridge should improve safety.
In the past, drivers have run into the marsh while trying to navigate the broad curve that leads to the bridge, according to town traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker. Adding shoulders would give drivers room to readjust, he said.
"There's really no room for recovery with the existing bridge," Shoemaker said.
The project will take about two years, Matienzo said.
Traffic will continue on the current bridge until the new one is connected to Spanish Wells Road. Any traffic interruptions would occur at night, according to Shoemaker.
A federal agency deemed the bridge structurally deficient in 2003, according to a report from the Federal Highway Administration.
It has also been listed among the worst bridges in the state by AAA Carolinas. The bridge was ranked 181st in 2013 on the group's list of substandard bridges, according to public relations manager Tom Crosby. The list ranks more than 1,800 bridges in descending order, from worst to best.
The bridge has been slated for replacement since 2011. Matienzo said designs for spans in environmentally sensitive wetlands can take longer to approve because of permitting from several agencies, including the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Matienzo said the bridge remains safe and will last until the new crossing is completed.
"Inspectors say it's sound," he said.
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