SCDOT Fights Congaree River Bridge Compromise

Mon November 20, 2006 - Southeast Edition

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina transportation officials say the agency cannot afford changes to a new bridge planned for U.S. Highway 601 across the Congaree River.

The Transportation Department plans to fight an order from state environmental officials telling them to take more steps to protect wetlands and wildlife as they build the bridge.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control says it wants longer bridges and shorter causeways for the four miles over the river and the swamp surrounding it.

The highway, built more than 50 years ago, has four bridges connected by causeways, which block water from flowing through the structures. The environmental agency says that hurts wildlife and the flood plain.

The Transportation Department wants the new project near the Richland-Calhoun county line built similar to the current highway, but permits approved by the Department for Health and Environmental Control added more than 500 ft. of bridges.

Transportation officials said it will appeal the permits because it cannot afford any changes. The project is estimated to cost $37 million.

Environmentalists oppose the Transportation Department’s proposal because they say the causeways would restrict water from flowing through the swamp. They want one 4-mi. long bridge built instead. Transportation officials said that would double the cost of the project.

The section of U.S. 601 also travels through part of Congaree National Park, which is South Carolina’s only national park.