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S.C. I-77 Catawba Bridge repair could impact emergency services, county making plans to combat that

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - Crews are getting ready to replace part of the I-77 bridge over the Catawba River. It is going to mean a lot of traffic and slowdowns until the end of May.

The bridge needs major repairs on its southbound side. The actual replacement begins next month and that entire side will be shut down. The northbound side will become a two-way road with a median in the middle of the lanes.

In the days leading up to all of this, there will be lane closures in each direction at nights, into the early mornings. The slower traffic is going to affect first responders as well.

Sandra Jordan’s house is in the middle of what’s about to be a heavy traffic area once the I-77 Catawba bridge repair starts. She lives in Baxter Village in Fort Mill.

”If it takes me an extra 10 to 15 minutes, then I would rather that then be safe,” says Jordan.

County officials feel like it’s going to be much longer, I-77 is not the only road affected. City roads like Dave Lyle Blvd, Celanese and Riverview Parkway could be packed. The Kingsley, Riverview and Baxter neighborhoods will feel the brunt of it. Most of the traffic being pushed onto local roads are by those neighborhoods.

”I have a 91 year old father who has to get to the hospital in Rock Hill. He’s got a bad heart so yeah it’s a concern,” says Bruce Hardcastle.

”We’re having a life and death conversation,” says York County Emergency Manager Chuck Haynes.

Seconds matter for emergencies. Haynes says traffic affects emergency services getting to you. Police, firefighters and EMS navigate the same traffic, but as traffic goes up Haynes and his team want to make sure response time doesn’t fall.

”It is going to be a major hurdle for us to get through that area,” says Haynes.

That does not mean you should not call 911. Haynes says the county’s planning to spread resources on either side of the bridge so first responders do not have to cut through as much traffic.

”Even though we’ve taken into consideration everything we need we still might have some delays,” he says.

Spreading resources means city and town borders will drop. The county will rely on whoever’s closest to get to you quickly. So, a Rock Hill fire team might put out the fire at your Fort Mill home.

”We take it so serious that we’re going to have the right resources at the right place at the right time,” says Haynes.

Haynes says the county is still working through all the plans to make this work. County officials suggest people give stay at home as much as possible until the project is done. If you cannot, they suggest giving yourself extra time to get through the area and being patient. They also say paying attention while in traffic can help keep accidents from happening and more traffic backups.

This closure is planned to begin May 6, 2021 at 9 p.m. and last through May 24 at 5 a.m.

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