LOCKHART — Construction has already begun on a $22 million project that in three years will give the Town of Lockhart four new bridges.
In a ceremony Friday morning on River Street below the Askew Memorial Bridge aka the Broad River Bridge, officials with the Town of Lockhart, Union County, the Union County Legislative Delegation, and the SC Department of Transportation broke ground on the project that, as several speakers pointed out, has been seven years in the making.
The project involves the replacement of the bridges over Broad River and River Street, over the Lockhart Power Canal, over Canal Street, and Lockhart Drive.
Andy Leaphart, Chief Engineer for Operation for the SCDOT, said the four bridges are being replaced due to their structural condition. Leaphart said that construction began on April 10 of this year and is currently scheduled to be completed by March 25, 2020.
The replacement of the bridges is budgeted to be completed at cost of just under $22 million.
The project has been a long time coming with efforts to get it under way dating back to 2010, and as Leaphart pointed out, involved the efforts of a variety and of private and public agencies.
“Many of you gathered here this morning have been involved in this project for many years already,” Leaphart said. “I think it’s fair to say that getting to just this point in the project is a huge success. It seems that there have been obstacles at every turn, but today we celebrate because we have worked very hard together to overcome those obstacles. This has truly been an effort that involved partnerships at every level.
“Multiple state agencies have been involved,” he said. “Private industries have been involved. Your local government agencies, your local utility companies, and your local business owners have been involved. And you local citizens, who drive through this area every day have been involved. For they, as much as anyone, under the need for the improvement we are celebrating today.”
One those credited by Leaphart with helping make the project possible, was Lockhart Mayor Ailene Ashe.
“I’m so proud that this is finally happening,” Ashe said. “I appreciate everything that’s been done. I’m so excited, it’s been a long time coming.”
Ashe, along with many other local officials including State Rep. Mike Anthony have worked for the past seven years to help get the project to this point. One of the obstacles that had to be overcome was relocating the utilities running under Broad River Bridge, a project beyond the fiscal means of the town. Ashe, Anthony, and others worked to secure funding for the relocation of the utilities including C Funds allocated by the Union County Transportation Committee and funds allocated for the project by the State Legislature.
Ashe thanked Anthony and all the others who had worked to secure that funding and the other agencies involved for addressing the other issues surrounding the replacement of the bridges, making Friday’s groundbreaking and what it represents possible.
Among those attending the ceremony was Union County Supervisor Frank Hart who pointed out how important the bridges are to the community.
“I’m very excited to see that project get started,” Hart said following the ceremony. “That bridge is one of the keys to transportation in Union County.”
Hart also thanked both Anthony and the Union County Transportation Committee for helping make the project a reality.
“I want to thank Mike Anthony for his assistance in securing state funding for relocating Lockhart’s utilities,” Hart said. “I also want to thank Don Shetley and the Transportation Committee for helping us with the utility relocation as well.”
Also present at the ceremony was Andrena Powell-Baker, Senior Manager for Community Relations and Development for Lockhart Power, who said the company is looking forward to and supportive of the project, pointing to its long ties with the community.
“Lockhart Power has been a staple in the Town of Lockhart for over 100 years as a part of the Milliken and Company legacy,” Powell-Baker said. “Our roots run deep here and we expect to be around for another 100 years! This is one of the many reasons why we are excited to see an investment of this magnitude in our hometown.
“Members of our team have worked closely with the SC Department of Transportation and others throughout the design process to ensure a safe and well-built bridge,” she said. “We will continue to be an active supporter throughout the construction phase.”
Also speaking was John McCarter, District Four Engineering Administrator for the SCDOT, who reviewed the history of efforts to traverse the river and use it for transportation and economic development. McCarter pointed out that these efforts date back nearly two centuries beginning with the construction of the first Lockhart Canal. He listed the following timeline of those efforts:
• 1823 — The construction of Lockhart Canal, which McCarter said was one of eight canals in the state built to provide navigable water transportation to get goods to Charleston.
• 1849 — Lockhart Canal closed due to inefficiencies across the state.
• During that time, McCarter said a local ferry was used to transport people and goods across Broad River.
• The canal was rebuilt, however, in the 1890s to accommodate the Lockhart Cotton Mill.
• 1917 — South Carolina Highway Department formed.
• 1919 — Construction of the Broad River Bridge begins. McCarter said the bridge was the first major federal aid bridge project in South Carolina.
The construction of the bridge did not get under way until October 1919 due to being delayed by World War I. It is completed in August 1921, a 456-foot Steel Span bridge with additional length for approaches.
In a sign of how times — and costs — have changed, McCarter said the construction of the bridge cost just $76,407.78. He added that this was actually $4,000 below the engineer’s cost estimate.
• 1947 — The Steel Span superstructure was removed and the current 730-foot bridge was built. McCarter pointed that the original bridge piers were utilized in the construction of the new bridge along with new ones. He added that this bridge, the one in current use, is now 70 years old, but the piers from its predecessor are 96 years old.
• 2017 — Nearly two centuries after the first Lockhart Canal was built and nearly a century after the Steel Span bridge was built and 70 years it was built, the current bridge is about to be replaced.
McCarter said that the contract for the construction of the new bridge was awarded to Crowder Construction Company on December 13, 2016. He said the bid amount was $26,682.415 and the project is projected to take 1,080 days or almost three years to complete with the new bridge scheduled to open in March 2020.
The project involves not only the replacement of the Broad River Bridge but also the bridges on Lockhart Drive, on Canal Road, and on the Broad River Canal.
McCarter said that the new Broad River Bridge will be 705 feet long, have two 12-foot-wide travel lanes with a 10-foot shoulder on each side and, on the downstream side, a 5-foot-wide sidewalk beyond the shoulder.
McCarter said the bridge will be built in phases and slightly downstream from the current bridge in order to ensure that traffic is not interrupted and inconvenienced during the construction process.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.