August 21
Ben Sawyer Bridge Rehabilitation Contract Approved

SCDOT Commission approves the project at its August meeting


           The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) Commission gave approval to a contract that calls for the rehabilitation of the Ben Sawyer swing bridge on SC 703 in Charleston County. The Commission gave its approval on August 21 at its monthly meeting in Columbia.


          The bridge built in 1945 spans the Intracoastal Waterway, connecting Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island. The project will include improving the approaches to the bridge, replacing the steel superstructure on the swing span, and replacing the electrical and mechanical systems. The $40 million project is funded entirely by federal dollars. The project is expected to take two years to complete.


          The contract only permits the bridge to be completely closed for seven days during the 24 months allowed for the project. During the closing, the steel superstructure will be brought in by barge and lifted atop the existing bridge piers. Detours will be determined and announced prior to the closing of the bridge.


          Transportation Secretary H.B. Limehouse Jr. said that he’s pleased that this project and contract have been approved. “The Ben Sawyer Bridge is certainly an important transportation link, but its function as a swing bridge is also part of the tradition and charm of the Lowcountry landscape,” said Secretary Limehouse. This project is of particular interest to me since I worked for what was then known as the SC Highway Department during my summer vacations while a cadet at The Citadel. One of my jobs was to serve as a relief bridge operator. The Ben Sawyer Bridge has survived time and major hurricanes, and it’s important that we preserve it as a swing bridge,” Limehouse said.


          The Ben Sawyer Bridge drew significant attention nationwide when Hurricane Hugo came ashore in the Charleston area in 1989. The storm essentially collapsed the swing span, leaving it tilted at a 45-degree angle, which created one of the lasting images of the hurricane’s devastation. The swing span was lifted back into place on October 5, 1989. One lane of the bridge was re-opened to traffic on October 8, 1989.