Traffic During Construction Mostly Smooth (except that one day)

By Warren Cobb | Managing Editor

The new bridges over the Folly River and Folly Creek are nearing completion, with demolition of the span over Folly Creek already underway. For the most part, residents and visitors to Folly Beach had few traffic problems, with motorists able to maneuver through the construction site relatively easily.

Then came St. Patrick’s Day. On March 17, 2015, traffic to and from Folly Beach came to an hours-long standstill. Southbound traffic was backed up Folly Road for miles. And cars trying to leave Folly Beach stacked up down Center Street to Arctic Avenue, and down the adjoining avenues for several blocks. The tiny island was gridlocked.

“Somebody screwed up,” said Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin. “Someone in the contractor’s crew who knew nothing about traffic flow did that.”

Everyone on the island was upset, but Director of Pubic Safety Andrew Gilreath was livid. Gilreath sent a letter to the contractor’s representatives denouncing the traffic stoppage. “This decision had ramifications well beyond simple delays in travel,” Gilreath wrote. “Our island was completely gridlocked. Requests for Police, Fire, and EMS could not be quickly answered as there was no way to traverse the island to respond in a timely manner.”

Gilreath went on to call the traffic closure “irresponsible” and “reckless,” asking why such work wasn’t performed at night to minimize the impact on traffic. Since then, the contractor (Cape Romaine Construction) has agreed to perform lane closures only at night and when the impact on traffic flow would be minimal.

The new bridges are slated to be fully opened, and the old bridges completely demolished by June 2015. The total cost of the project was a little more than $32 million. Work began in the fall of 2012. The old bridges, completed in 1954, were deemed “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” by S.C. Department of Transportation engineers, which doesn’t necessary mean they were dangerous, but were fast-tracked for replacement.

The Folly Creek Bridge is exactly 825 feet long by 48 feet wide. The Folly River Bridge is exactly 1,050 feet long by 48 feet wide. Both spans have a northbound lane for vehicles and a southbound lane for vehicles. Both have bike lanes on either side, and both have five-foot-wide sidewalks on either side with decorative galvanized railings. The bridges are supported by driven pile and drilled shaft foundations, and will have large poured-in-place concrete caps, with type III pre-stressed girders and a poured-in-place concrete deck. Eventually, the bridge over the Folly River will be outfitted with overhead street lamps.

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