Horry County has a checkered history with bridges.
For example,the infamous “bridge to nowhere” spanned the Intracoastal Waterway for nearly three years before finally being completed in 2000.
The “bridge to nowhere” was a great embarrassment to Horry County officials. Fortunately, Bill Alford, chairman of the state highway commission, wrangled enough funds to connect the bridge to the first segment of S.C. 22, which connected S.C. 90 to U.S. 17 near North Myrtle Beach.
The state spent an enormous amount of money restoring and painting the railroad bridge crossing the Intracoastal Waterway at Myrtle Beach.
Since then, it’s been lowered only a few times. It now points toward the sky in useless fashion.
Lest we forget, the bridge over U.S. 501 at Aynor created quite a stir because it did little to relieve traffic congestion in the town.
More recently, a project to renovate the Main Street bridge in Conway took months longer than anticipated, causing major traffic headaches on U.S. 501.
None of these examples can compete with the massive boondoggle known as the S.C. 31 extention bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.
Costing more than $224 million, the bridge project is more than two years behind schedule.
S.C. Department of Transportation officials hope the span over the waterway will be completed by Thanksgiving. The approaches to both sides of the bridge have been completed so perhaps the projected completion date can be met. I would not put money on it.
The project has been plagued by hurricanes, stop orders and lawsuits. Recently, bridge inspectors found about 150 feet of the bridge had bad concrete that must be replaced.
Somewhere along the line someone or some group made many poor judgement calls. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on and someone should be held accountable for the long delay.
On a bright note, a magnificent new bridge over the Great Pee Dee River on U.S. 701 recently opened. This was an impressive engineering feat, proof that bridges can be built properly if the right company is hired.
While on the subject of bridges, federal, state and local officials should take a hard look at replacing the U.S. 501 bridge over the Waccamaw River.
I rode under the bridge on a boat outing recently and was shocked by the condition of the steel girders supporting the bridge.
Some of the support beams were dangling loose and almost all were heavily rusted.
Even if construction started tomorrow, it would take years to build a replacement bridge.
U.S. 501 is a major artery leading into Myrtle Beach. I shudder to think what would happen if it had to be closed for repairs.