Beaufort News

This iconic Beaufort County bridge is being replaced. The old one might get a new life

Project director on features of proposed Harbor River Bridge

During a public hearing on Nov. 15, 2016, at Lady's Island Elementary School, held to solicit comments from residents on the proposed Harbor River Bridge replacement, South Carolina Department of Transportation project director William "Tyke" Redf
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During a public hearing on Nov. 15, 2016, at Lady's Island Elementary School, held to solicit comments from residents on the proposed Harbor River Bridge replacement, South Carolina Department of Transportation project director William "Tyke" Redf

While a new Harbor River Bridge is still about three years away, the old one could find new life as a reef.

Preliminary planning on the new structure has begun and a start time for work is getting nearer.

“From a construction standpoint, we’re pretty early in the game,” Joel Smith, associate engineer with the S.C. Department of Transportation, said Tuesday.

A news release from Michael Baker International announced the company had been hired to build the new bridge.

“Simply put, SCDOT doesn’t have the manpower to manage all its projects and don’t have enough staff with the experience for a project of this size,” Smith said.

The contractor is currently moving through the permitting process with, among others, the U.S. Coast Guard, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It hopes to have plans finalized by the spring.

“We’re expecting a project groundbreaking in January,” Smith said

The new fixed-span bridge will be 3,353 feet long with a clearance of 65 feet and will cost a little more than $53 million. State and federal funds will pay for the new structure.

It will take about three years to finish. “November of 2021, if work kicks off in January.” Smith said.

The contractor also has proposed a unique way of repurposing the old bridge. The plan is to tow it offshore, sink it and create a reef for ocean wildlife.

“We’ve asked the question,” Smith said.

The bridge demolition team will know when permits are received from the U.S. Army Corps, National Marine Fisheries Service and S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

While the the new bridge will make traveling to Harbor, Hunting and Fripp islands safer, the line that supplies water to the sea islands is also getting a facelift.

Currently, the above-ground line supplying water to the sea islands travels beneath the existing bridge.

Angie Hughes, Fripp Island Public Service District manager, said the district will “be boring under the river, bypassing the bridge. It’s very good news (for our customers), and it’s safer. It (the pipe) won’t be exposed to the elements – eliminating the risk of being hit by passing barges.”

The waterline will be driven about 70 to 90 feet under the river at an estimated cost of $3.2 million. Voters already have approved the borrowing of money from a state revolving fund available under drinking water plans.

“We want to work ahead of DOT with the intention of having the water moved before the start of the new bridge project and (well) before the (existing) bridge is dismantled,” Hughes said.

Drew Martin: 843-706-8132

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