The failing Wando River bridge that has cut off access to I-526 was designed by FIGG Bridge Engineers–the same firm behind the bridge near the Florida International University in Miami that collapsed onto the highway below earlier this year, killing six people. The Wando River bridge has suffered from several issues, the most recent of which being a broken cable that was discovered on Monday morning.
Initial estimates for how long the bridge would remain closed were optimistic, but it now seems that the Wando River bridge could potentially be closed for several weeks. This will have a severe impact upon the commute time of many in the Mount Pleasant and Charleston area, as the bridge served as a valuable through-line. Without it, a commute that would normally take 20 minutes might take upwards of an hour, depending upon the traffic. Congestion of alternative roads is a concern as well, as drivers have few choices for circumventing the bridge closure.
While FIGG has never seen an incident as dire as this year’s Florida bridge collapse, the firm has had other troublesome incidents in the past. In 2012 FIGG was constructing the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge in Virginia when a 52 foot-long span of the bridge collapsed, injuring four workers in the process. The situation was investigated and FIGG was found to have altered girders used in the bridge without the consent of the manufacturer. This, along with several other violations, led to FIGG being fined $28,000 by the state of Virginia. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an additional eight citations, which added on another $9,800 to the fines on FIGG.
In a time where South Carolina is in desperate need of road and infrastructure improvement, the Wando River bridge closing is just the most recent of the problems that drivers have been forced to face. We will not know the full extent of the damage and inconvenience of the situation for quite some time, but the initial indicators are that both will be quite severe.