CHEROKEE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – You may remember our previous report about the South Carolina Department of Transportation adding new weight restrictions to bridges across the Upstate.
7 News has since learned more about how these restrictions are impacting first responders in our area.
Jamie Caggiano is the Gaffney Fire Chief and says public safety is a number one priority for his department, which is why he has an issue with the new signs that have popped up around Cherokee County and other counties across the Upstate.
“Our guys, the last thing they think about when they get in a fire truck, going from point A to point B, is looking at weight limit signs,” Chief Caggiano said.
Those signs specify new weight limits for bridges he says the department has traveled when responding to fires, but, now, they may not be able to.
“Fire engine wise, we weighed them, and we weigh anywhere from 34,000 pounds up to our large platform ladder truck, which weighs 68,000 pounds,” Caggiano said. “We’re nowhere close. Some of them, we’re two or three times over the limit.”
According to SCDOT, the new weight limits follow a mandate by the Federal Highway Association so that certain bridges can be surveyed and then fixed or replaced.
“They’re guessing some of these bridges wouldn’t be replaced for up to ten years,” Caggiano said.
Chief Caggiano told 7 News the weight restrictions will force them to find alternate routes, which, in turn, he said, could increase response times in emergency situations–some life-or-death.
One of the new signs is on Overbrook Drive and Caggiano said it could impact calls at B.D. Lee Elementary School.
Another one is on Frye Road, which has at least a couple dozen houses, but no alternate route to get to them.
“Frye Road is a little concerning because it’s a dead-end road, so getting past that, we’re kind of evaluating how we’re going to provide fire protection and medical services on that road,” Caggiano said.
The Gaffney fire chief told 7 News the new signs could potentially have an impact on homeowners’ insurance rates.
But Chief Caggiano said it’s not just them who will be affected.
“They’re going to have to re-route some school buses,” he said. “EMS, garbage collection, roads and bridges–as far as the construction work industry.”
He told 7 News his goal is to work with SCDOT to get these bridges fixed as quickly as possible so that his department can continue to respond as quickly as possible.
Cherokee County Administrator Steve Bratton told 7 News he’s reached out to some state lawmakers about this.
We’ve also talked with several Spartanburg County fire departments who say they expect to be impacted by these weight restrictions as well.
We’ll continue to follow this story and bring you updates as we learn them.