Another downtown Aiken bridge closed due to structural issues

Jan. 24—Another bridge across the Norfolk Southern-owned railway through downtown Aiken has been closed to traffic.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation closed the Union Street bridge Jan. 13 according to a listing on the department's website.

Pete Poore, South Carolina Department of Transportation communication manager, said each bridge in the Palmetto State is inspected every two years. He said when engineers inspected the Union Street bridge, they noticed an unspecified structural problem and attempted to alleviate the problem by restricting the weight of vehicles traveling across.

A sign on the Park Avenue side of the bridge says vehicles with two, three, four or more axles were restricted to 31 tons and combination vehicles were restricted to 45 tons.

Poore said the attempt to alleviate the problem did not work and engineers decided to close the bridge in a "safety move." He said engineers are working to determine whether repairs can be made or the bridge will need to be replaced.

He said until the engineers determine whether the bridge can be repaired, no timeline for reopening or replacement can be developed.

The Union Street bridge is one block east of the Fairfield Street bridge that's been closed since early 2016.

Like the Union Street bridge, the Fairfield Street bridge was closed due to unspecified deteriorating conditions.

The department has offered to pay for part of the cost, $1.3 million, to get the bridge reopened but the city must pay the remainder and agree to take ownership of Fairfield Street from Richland Avenue to South Boundary Avenue.

City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh said until recently the city did not have the funds. However, he added there was the potential of using around $2.5 million from the city's plutonium settlement funds for the repairs.

The nearest streets with open bridges to Union Street and Fairfield Street are York Street and Kershaw Street.