Hilton Head bridge repairs close lanes overnight. Will it affect Memorial Day traffic?

Drone video: Bridge maintenance closes the gaps that you may think are just lines

S.C. Department of Transportation must close lanes when they replace the rubber sealant between bridge decks.
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S.C. Department of Transportation must close lanes when they replace the rubber sealant between bridge decks.

As you round the corner right before the bridge heading west from Hilton Head Island in the evening, it’s typically a smooth drive.

The oppressing rush hour traffic has dissipated, and the 45 mph speed limit is finally within reach.

Except for recently.

If you’ve rounded that corner on any number of recent evenings, the upward glide of the Skull Creek Bridge is fractured by a flashing sign that bisects the road, and tells drivers to hustle into one lane.

Traffic zippers into a single lane — and the peaceful ascent over the moonlit water becomes more of a frustrating crawl.

Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

The S.C. Department of Transportation has been performing bridge maintenance overnight on the eastbound and westbound Hilton Head bridges over Skull Creek — that’s the first, higher set of bridges before Pinckney Island if you’re leaving Hilton Head.

But drivers are in luck — although the lane closures were in full swing most of the week, there will not be any nighttime work over Memorial Day weekend, according to district bridge engineer for SCDOT, Kevin Turner.

Crews will be back out on the bridges overnight next Tuesday, May 28 through Thursday, May 30, Turner said.

“We won’t be impacting any Memorial Day traffic,” Turner said. “After next week we anticipate being done.”

Why are lanes closed on the Hilton Head bridges?

The overnight lane closures are so crews can replace the rubber buffers on the bridge, Turner said.

“Bridges expand and contract with temperature changes, so we have expansion joints throughout the structure,” Turner said. “They’re pretty recognizable — big lines running across the bridge. We’re replacing the rubber sealant material that lies in those joints.”

Katherine Kokal The Island Packet

The sealant protects the bearings that lie beneath the joints and hold the bridge up, Turner said.

If you’ve driven it, you’ve likely seen bright orange sparks fly into the nighttime air as crews take saws to the rubber sealants.

Turner said the routine bridge maintenance needs to happen at intervals of every five to 25 years, depending on weather and bridge traffic.

This round of maintenance isn’t related to the work on the Mackay’s Creek bridge navigational lights last month — which unexpectedly closed an eastbound lane during morning rush hour.

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Eastbound traffic is still moving slowly across the Hilton Head bridges and Bluffton flyover after a lane was closed on U.S. 278 Monday afternoon for a bridge inspection. Both lanes were open as of 3:35 p.m. Monday. Beaufort County Traffic Cameras

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.