- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

TURBEVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Long-distance drivers on one of the East Coast’s busiest highways were being re-routed for a fourth day Wednesday because a nearly 15-mile stretch of Interstate 95 remained closed.

Some 30,000 cars and trucks usually travel on I-95 between Interstates 20 and 26 each day, a stretch of about 74 miles. But drivers that want to go straight through can’t because of ongoing flooding, so they’re having to take a massive detour. Here’s a closer look at why, and what the detour means on the highway that runs from Florida to Maine:

WAITING FOR INSPECTIONS

A historic storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of rain onto central South Carolina last weekend left the Black and Pocotaligo rivers overflowing with fast-moving water, meaning inspectors haven’t been able to eyeball the underside of bridges over the waterways, state Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore said. Inspectors are hoping the rivers will recede enough to allow them to scout the situation Thursday, Poore said. How soon the bridges are cleared and the interstate opens fully depends on what inspectors find.

ROADBLOCKS AND ALLOWANCES



Parts of I-95 are open. But the fact part of the highway is closed means long-distance traffic is being detoured onto I-20 and I-26 for a 168-mile trek.

“There’s spots in there that are open to local traffic,” South Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bob Beres said Wednesday.

Long-distance I-95 traffic isn’t being allowed into the zone between the other interstates because so many smaller roads remain closed from flood damage, Beres said. Officials don’t want those travelers trying to take detours on local roads.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Some rerouted drivers are taking it in stride, while others react with frustration.

Directed to exit I-95 near Turbeville, trucker Adrian Suarez of Miami said he got on the highway in Florence, about 30 miles north, where oncoming traffic was allowed, and was surprised by the detour. He was hauling a load of frozen chickens to West Palm Beach, Florida. Although members of the South Carolina State Transport Police handed out slips of paper with directions on how to bypass the closed section and return to the interstate’s southbound lanes, Suarez said he was given no instructions.

“They just tell you, find an alternative,” Suarez said as he hunched over a map propped against the truck’s steering wheel. “They should have better signs, detour signs.”

FACTS ON THE GROUND

Interstate 95 is one of the country’s busiest highways, especially the stretches that pass through urban areas like Baltimore and Washington. On any given day, more than 10,000 trucks are hauling goods to businesses and consumers, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

I-95’s path through South Carolina takes it through several low-lying, swampy areas. The state’s Department of Transportation said about 25 bridges on the 200-mile route through the state will have water flowing over them in a 100-year flood, which is an event that has a 1 percent chance of happening each year. Fourteen of those bridges are on the 74-mile stretch of I-95 from Interstate 20 to Interstate 26, which was closed Sunday and partly reopened to local traffic Tuesday.

ULTIMATE COST

It’s too early to estimate the commercial losses from the storm, and that includes the costs tied to I-95’s lengthy closure, South Carolina Trucking Association Executive Director Rick Todd said. The same was true for any national perspective, American Trucking Association spokesman Sean McNally said.

Carriers who veer from the open interstate routes are finding, like other motorists, unexpected barricades on hundreds of secondary roads. That is forcing creative decisions on what to do next, said Jerry Smith, general manager of Associated Petroleum Carriers in Spartanburg.

“This is such a massive rerouting,” Smith said. “You’re looking at a massive amount of road closures and bridges.”

___

Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins in Columbia contributed to this report.

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