By Associated Press - Wednesday, May 5, 2021

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - A massive bridge repair project on one of South Carolina’s busiest highways begins Thursday night and will likely cause commuting headaches for people who travel between Rock Hill and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Crews will close the Interstate 77 southbound bridge over the Catawba River at 9 p.m. May 6. It will remain closed for 17 days to replace to concrete road surface on the structure, the Department of Transportation said.

Southbound traffic will share the northbound bridge, and what is typically four lanes of traffic each way will be cut down to two lanes.

I-77 is the main route between Columbia and Charlotte and sees an average of 120,000 vehicles a day. The only nearby bridge on U.S. Highway 21 sees an average of 30,000 vehicle a day, according to SCDOT figures.

The contractors will have crews working 12 hour shifts around the clock and staying at a nearby hotel, SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin said at a news conference Tuesday.

And there is a strict timetable: For every hour the southbound bridge remains closed after the 5 a.m. May 24 deadline, United Infrastructure Group out of Chester County, will be fined $10,000, Colvin said.

The contractor is being paid $12.7 million for the project.

The bridge was built in 1970s and has needed spot repairs to its surface several times in the past few years. Engineers have concluded it is best just to build a new bridge deck.

This project won’t be the end of the headaches, either; at some point, the northbound span needs attention. “We have seen deterioration in that direction as well, and we expect we’re going to have to address that sometime in the future,” said Colvin.

There are only a few bridges over the Catawba River in the area, and almost all alternative routes add a dozen or more miles to the average commute.

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