Senator Raised Concerns Over Wando Bridge 30 Years Ago

May 22, 2018, 11:44 am EST | Share:

CHARLESTON, SC (ANNE EMERSON, WTAT-TV) — It’s something we haven’t seen since the old Cooper River Bridges — cars passing within feet of each other as they head in the opposite direction over a Lowcountry waterway.

This will be the way of life for at least the next three weeks as crews work to repair a snapped cable on the James B. Edwards bridge. But, could all of this have been avoided nearly 30 years ago if officials heeded the concerns of a freshman state senator?

“It’s been one screw up after another…” Ernie Passailigue was a freshman state senator in 1989 when he uttered those words. He was referring to the building of the Mark Clark Expressway, including the Wando Bridge.

Now retired, Sen. Passailigue says he’s not surprised – at all – to hear of the latest bridge problem.

“They said ‘this is going to be a problem one day’,” he said, recalling 30 years ago when several construction workers on the project came forward with stories.

“They were under intense pressure to get the project moved forward,” he said. “They were pouring concrete at night in high temperatures and were mixing it with water to try and cool it down to pour it.”

In 1989, our sister station, WCIV-TV, spoke to some of those workers.

“I don’t believe I’ll drive across it,” one said, while another said; “Some of the things they are doing just don’t make sense.”

“Are the investigators going to be able to get to the bottom of this,” a reporter asked a worker. He replied, “To tell you the truth, I don’t think so.”

Ominous warnings that the senator took to the Highway Commission.

“It’s being pour to standard, don’t worry about any of this, it will be okay,” he recalled of a response.

The senator said he knew there was no reason for those workers to lie. He believed them and still does.

“They told me about how things were done correctly and how things were done incorrectly, and they were saying this was rushed to get the stuff done, that was not good, long-term, for this bridge.”

He went on to say; “They didn’t think it was going to collapse or have a structural problem immediately, but thought some day the chickens were going to come home to roost.”

Transportation Secretary Hall says she is aware that there are reports of problems on the bridge for years. She has ordered a task force to investigate and report back in about a week.

No matter what they discover, the solution will cost taxpayers money. Keep in mind, that bridge is supposed to be open one day before the South Carolina primary.