Cars on the bridge

The Main Street Bridge that has been closed since early January was already busy by midday Saturday.

Although the sign heading into Conway on S.C. 905 says the Main Street Bridge is closed and motorists should take a detour, it isn't true.

Traffic was already streaming over the bridge in both directions by the middle of the day Saturday, causing Main Street to return to its usual busy self on a holiday weekend.

Conway City Councilman William Goldfinch said he was downtown Friday evening at about 7:30 p.m. when S.C. Department of Transportation workers were already removing the barricades.

The bridge has been closed since early January, pushing all southbound traffic to U.S. 501 bypass causing morning and afternoon snarls, hurting some downtown businesses.

"It’s been a long time coming," Goldfinch said. "It's exciting to get our town back the way that we know it and to be able to use the bridge in a way that’s going to move folks around more efficiently than we’ve lived with for the last six months…I do hope that this experience will encourage leaders outside of the city, within the county and state to press beachbound traffic to use Highway 22 and Highway 31 to get to the beach and, when possible, to bypass Conway, not to miss Conway, but to avoid the congestion and the backup that it creates."

The excitement was immediate and was traveling fast after the announcement was shared by S.C. Rep. Kevin Hardee that the bridge would reopen Saturday.

Emily Smith, owner of Good Day Sunshine said, “Yay! I’m super excited for it to be back open. I’m looking forward to seeing my customers from off Highway 90 whom I haven’t seen in a long time."

Conway City Councilman Tom Anderson called the announcement of the opening, “very exciting news.”

“I spoke to several of the steel workers over the last month and I’m very thankful that the bridge closed and the restoration began when it did.”

He said he’s excited about the gateway being open back up to get back downtown for shopping and eating and encouraged everyone to support Conway’s downtown businesses.

“Everybody always wants fun little shops, but if we don’t eat there they won’t be there.”

"I’m very excited," said Conway City Councilman Shane Hubbard. "Thank you Kevin Hardee. I am just tickled to death. I’m in Garden City. I might ride back to Conway just so I can drive over it."

Conway City Councilman Larry White was a little more reserved with his comments.

"I’m glad that it’s opening. I’m hoping that it’s done correctly. I’m interested in making sure it’s done right more so than getting it open just to say it’s open. Just make sure that it’s safe for the people of Conway, because if it’s not safe don’t open it."

Travis Patrick, assistant district construction engineer, has been saying for about a week now that they hoped to have it open by Monday, but that wasn’t a sure thing.

The engineer said bridge workers have gotten the critical steel repairs done on the bridge, specifically the main section over the river that they’ve been working on, and they started rehabilitating the concrete deck Thursday of this past week.

“It’s not going to be open by Thursday or Friday, I don’t believe. We’re shooting for Memorial Day and we’re working to meet that goal,” Patrick said earlier in the week.

After the bridge opens, it will not be completely closed again for this project.

Patrick said once they reopen to traffic, they will close lanes at night and keep working, but not completely close the historic structure. The lanes will likely be closed after traffic volumes decrease each day. Although Patrick isn’t sure exactly what time the lanes will be closed, he says it will likely be 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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