SCDOT releases preliminary report on Don Holt Bridge tarp collapse

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) -The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has released an initial report on the events connected to the paint containment system incident on the I-526 Don Holt Bridge in July.

According to preliminary report SCDOT is continuing to work with the contractor to review the actions leading up to this failure. The loose roof tarp was secured the day it was reported. Early indications are the tarp was not a factor in the failure that occurred on Wednesday, July 19.

The SCDOT Charleston area Traffic Management Center (TMC) received a call from the SC Highway Patrol dispatcher on Sunday afternoon July 16 concerning a loose roof tarp on the Don Holt Bridge.

The tarp was part of a containment system used to protect passing vehicles during a project to repaint the bridge truss. The TMC dispatched an SCDOT SHEP (State Highway Emergency Patrol) unit to the bridge. The operator reported no problems were present in the travel lanes.

Later on Sunday, the contractor’s workers secured the loose roof tarp. An SCDOT inspector verified that the corrective action had been taken.

On Monday July 17, the contractor’s workers re-inspected the tarp and reported the tarp was still secure. On Tuesday July 18, the workers reinstalled and performed maintenance on the roof tarp. SCDOT’s inspector once again verified the work had been completed. SCDOT did not receive any further calls related to this situation on July 17 or 18.

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday July 19, large sections of the upper truss containment system were torn down, covering the bridge deck and trapping several vehicles.

The report states that weather conditions at that time indicated wind gusts on the bridge deck reached in excess of 60 mph, falling into the range of wind speed for a tropical storm.  In addition, rainfall exceeded one-and-a-half inches in less than one hour.

Operations to remove the containment system began at approximately 7:30 p.m. by SCDOT staff, contractor’s workers and local emergency response agencies. The westbound lanes were reopened at about 7:15 a.m. on July 20. Eastbound lanes were reopened at around 9:45 a.m. on the same day.

SCDOT suspended any further overhead work on the bridge at that time. The suspension of work is still in place. The contractor’s corporate executives met with SCDOT in Charleston to determine a path forward.

The contractor has been fully cooperative with SCDOT to determine the cause of the tarp failure. As part of the plan ahead, some components of the containment system were sent to an independent laboratory for analysis. SCDOT notes that no lead-based paint was ever used on the Don Holt Bridge. In addition, no lead-based paint has been used on SCDOT bridges for over 35 years.

SCDOT continues to work with the contractor to review the actions leading up to this unprecedented incident. A final report will be made to the public as soon as all the data has been thoroughly reviewed.

The details of SCDOT’s Preliminary Report can be found HERE.

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