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'Avoid it like the plague' | Planned I-77 south closure in Rock Hill coming next month

Heavy delays are expected next month as crews make major renovations to the Catawba River Bridge.

SOUTH CAROLINA, USA — A major construction project on the Catawba River Bridge along I-77 in York County, South Carolina, is already driving people crazy and it's just getting started. 

Heavy delays are expected along I-77 beginning Thursday days as crews work to replace a bridge deck. As a result, the southbound lanes will be completely shut down near Sutton Road at exit 83. Work is expected to begin at 9 p.m. Thursday, May 6 and last through May 24 at 5 a.m.

“We are going to replace the southbound bridge deck on I-77 over the Catawba River," SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin said.

Work crews are already preparing for the project with nightly lane closures as they transition the northbound side of I-77 to a two-way road. 

The Catawba River Bridge was built in 1973. It was widened in 2000 but SCDOT officials say short-term repairs just won't cut it anymore, because 120,000 cars travel on it daily, in both directions.

“We basically just need to go out there and quickly replace that riding surface," Colvin said. 

RELATED: New camera system ensures drivers aren't cheating I-77 tolls

Here’s what you need to know: 

Starting May 6, SCDOT will close the southbound bridge and divert southbound traffic to the northbound lanes for about a half-mile north of the Catawba River Bridge.

Both northbound and southbound traffic along this section of I-77 will be reduced from four lanes to two lanes to maintain traffic flow in both directions along this northbound side of the interstate.

“The northbound lanes on 77 over the Catawba River Bridge has five lanes crossing the bridge and we’ll reduce that down to two lanes in each direction," Colvin said. 

  • Northbound traffic will be shifted to the two, far right lanes and use the east half of the northbound bridge to cross the Catawba River.
  • Southbound traffic will cross over the median and use the two lanes on the west half of the northbound interstate to cross the Catawba River. 
  • Once past the work zone, the southbound traffic will cross over the median and back to the southbound interstate highway travel lanes as normal.

Officials say a temporary concrete median will be in place to separate the northbound and southbound traffic.

However, that, in turn, will cause on-ramp closures in both directions on I-77 at Exit 83 and 82 forcing more delays.

RELATED: Beyond 77 study seeking public input to solve interstate congestion

A detour for these ramps will be posted using US 21 and Sutton Road. 

Here are the ramps that will also be closed during the closure:

  • Southbound I-77 on-ramp from Sutton Road
  • Northbound I-77 on-ramp from Cherry Road
  • Both Northbound I-77 on-ramps from Celanese Road
  • Northbound I-77 on-ramp from the Collector/Distributor along Exit 82
  • Repairs begin at 9 p.m. May 6, 2021, and end at 5 a.m. May 24, 2021, barring delays due to weather or unforeseen circumstances.
  • Work is planned 24 hours a day, seven days a week to expedite the project as much as possible.
  • Here are alternate routes to consider:
  • Hands Mill Hwy./Hwy 274 to Highway 49, York.
  • Highway 49 across Buster Boyd Bridge in Lake Wylie.
  • Highway 5 to Highway 521 North in Lancaster County
  • Highway 160 (Fort Mill) to Highway 521 in Indian Land.

If you live in Neighborhoods like Riverwalk, Baxter or Kingsley, SCDOT officials warn to expect an increase in cut-through traffic.

Officials are hoping to get back to regular traffic patterns before Memorial Day weekend.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article indicated that repairs could last up to six weeks. The story has been updated to reflect the SCDOT report that the project will take approximately 19 days.