Engineering firm postpones Liberty Bridge closure

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The Liberty Bridge in Falls Park in downtown Greenville. Will Crooks/Greenville Journal

Greenville’s Liberty Bridge, which transformed downtown when it opened to foot traffic in 2004, will have to wait a bit longer for its first-ever new coat of paint.

 

The bridge has had routine maintenance over the years, but this summer marks the first time the city will strip away its old paint to apply a fresh coat, which city officials have said is integral to preventing future rust and structural issues.

 

The updates started in February with phase one, when technicians replaced the bridge’s plastic abutment caps with ones made of galvanized steel.

 

Phase two of the project comprises two stages, the first of which was set to start on July 5 and consists of cleaning and painting the bridge. Stage two includes replacement of the grommets through which the support cables pass.

 

Leslie Fletcher, communications manager with the city, said its contracted engineering firm, WSP USA, decided to postpone the work until the plan’s environmental impact can be updated.

 

Scott Drayton, assistant parks and grounds administrator with the city, said WSP USA wanted to change the environmental impact plan to ensure no debris can fall to the ground or into the Reedy River, which flows beneath the bridge.

 

“We’re just trying to minimize any kind of paint flakes, any kind of rust that will fall off the bridge and go into the river to minimize the environmental impact,” Drayton said.

 

The bridge will have a plastic casing underneath it to catch any of the debris while the work is being done.

 

Drayton said July 23 is the new estimated start date, but the bridge won’t close to the public until stage two begins. At that point, the bridge will close so the construction team can remove the safety rails in order to replace the grommets.

 

The goal is to have the entire project completed by Aug. 30, but work cannot begin until WSP USA signs off on the environmental plan.

 

In a May release, the city explained the paint is best applied during the summer because the warm weather helps it adhere to the structure.

 

The Liberty Bridge features an unusual cantilever design; there are only two others like it in the world, Drayton said. WSP USA has been working with SBP, an engineering firm based in Germany that designed the bridge, to inspect it every three years because of the cantilever design.

“It’s gotten very good inspection ratings,” Drayton said.

 

Drayton said the updates this summer are primarily preventative and aesthetic measures. Any small fissures that might be on the bridge will also be sealed.

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