In addition to the main bridge over the river, a swamp river structure, or U.S. 301’s overflow bridge, also will be replaced. (Map courtesy of South Carolina Department of Transportation website)
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is planning to replace the U.S. Highway 301 bridge over the North Fork of the Edisto River in Orangeburg. Bids were let for the estimated $30.3 million construction project, located next to the Edisto Memorial Gardens, in November.
"The U.S. 301 over North Edisto River bridge replacement project was included in the November 2022 construction letting," SCDOT Spokesperson Pete Poore confirmed to the Times and Democrat. "It's currently going through the approval process for a construction award, which we hope will be finalized soon."
Work is scheduled to begin on the bridge replacement in January, and Poore added the estimated construction time from the SCDOT's Notice to Proceed will be 24 months to 36 months.
In addition to the main bridge over the river, a swamp river structure, or U.S. 301's overflow bridge, also will be replaced.
The construction project also calls for an acceleration lane from S.C. 33/Russell Street onto U.S. 301 to allow a free flow of traffic onto the new bridge, according to the SCDOT project website. Russell Street brings cars and trucks to and from downtown Orangeburg.
Two lanes of traffic in both directions of the roadway, along with pedestrian access, will be maintained during the construction process.
Poore explained that the purpose of the replacement project is to eliminate structural deficiencies on the existing bridge and to improve traffic flow and safety with the addition of the acceleration lane from Russell Street onto U.S. 301 southbound.
The Edisto River bridge on U.S. 301 was originally built in 1922, followed by the overflow bridge 32 years later. Traffic on both structures is projected to reach more than 30,000 vehicles a day by 2040.
Indecision, Controversy Has Dogged Replacement
The decision to finally replace the U.S. 301 river bridges has been a long time coming, after several construction proposals have been discussed over the years, the Orangeburg news source reported Dec. 10.
One such proposal was considered controversial because of its design and its impact on a marker and flag maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Camp 842. The small granite marker honors Confederate troops who died fighting Union troops during the Civil War.
Some members of the SCV were concerned that the bridge plan would eliminate its nearby display because a planned drainage pipe would have run straight through the site. SCDOT, however, redesigned the drainage to avoid an impact upon the group's monument and flag.
Over the years, the intersection of S.C. 301 and Russell Street also has seen many rear-end collisions.
About nine years ago, the state agency released its initial project proposal that would have shifted Russell Street to meet U.S. 301 at a 90-degree angle. SCDOT also looked at other options such as closing off the lower part of Russell Street and sending traffic onto Riverside Drive by the Orangeburg Veterans Memorial.
In November 2013, the Orangeburg City Council put the brakes on the project, with some members questioning its value. Council members asked SCDOT to consider alternate fixes to improve the safety of the intersection.
Another halt to the U.S. 301 Bridge project came about when the nearby Neighborhood Walmart store arrived, along with encroachment permits.
Two Other Orangeburg County Bridges Set for Repairs
Beyond the U.S. 301 project, SCDOT announced that the U.S. 21 bridge over the Edisto River swamp, south of Branchville, is also slated to undergo repairs. That work should begin next summer, with the project's length to be approximately 45 days.
It is one of two Orangeburg County bridges scheduled for upgrades, the Times and Democrat reported, with the other being the S.C. 210/Vance Road span over Providence Swamp.
The repairs are a part of SCDOT's strategic 10-year plan to repair and rebuild the state's transportation network.
As part of this effort, the transportation department proposes to reduce the number of load-restricted bridges around the Palmetto State by performing structural improvements through its Statewide Closed and Load Restricted Bridge Repairs program.
The fixes are meant to improve mobility in the region and extend the service life of the bridges, according to the Orangeburg news outlet.
SCDOT also disclosed that repairs will be made to the S.C. 260 bridge over Second Water-Lake Marion in Clarendon County as part of the statewide initiative.
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