Three of the four elevators in the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge are down and out.
The Post and Courier asked about the broken lifts last week when photographers hoped to get a bird’s-eye view of the nearly 40,000 people running during this Saturday’s Cooper River Bridge Run.
At the time, S.C. Department of Transportation officials had little information to provide, saying only that the elevators were functional but not reliable, according to agency spokesman Pete Poore. Engineers weren’t available to answer questions about the elevator issues on Friday.
This week, DOT officials had answers about the ups and downs of the elevator troubles experienced over the last few years.
Robert Clark, the DOT’s district engineering administrator, said that only one of the four elevators is operable. One did not pass the safety brake test, in which the elevator is dropped and the brakes are tested, he said. The part that needs repair is covered by the warranty from the manufacturer, according to Clark, but it has to be delivered from the Czech Republic, he said.
A second elevator’s bracket needs to be repaired, and a third elevator has an “electrical loading problem,” so that if more than one person is in the elevator, it stops. The elevators are primarily used to perform bridge maintenance.
Bill Nesteruk, CEO of Specialized Engineering Products Ltd., the Canadian company that built and installed the elevators, said he believes that maintenance is at the root of the elevator’s problems.
Nesteruk said his company was supposed to be called back at least twice a year since the elevators were installed in 2005, but that hasn’t happened since 2010.
The company’s trips can be costly. The basic labor fee for two technicians comes to about $150 an hour, according to Nesteruk. That doesn’t include the flight, hotel and per diem for the week-long trip that would also need to be covered.
Instead, the DOT hired Infrastructure Corporation of America to perform the maintenance of the elevators.
ICA performs and manages maintenance of roadways, facilities and public infrastructure “more efficiently, more effectively and at less cost,” according to the company’s website.
“These guys are very sharp and know what they’re doing,” Clark said. “These are man-lift cages that were really meant to be used sporadically for inspections of the bridge. The more time you get on them and try to use them more frequently, then I think you’ll see issues with them,” Clark said.
The elevators undergo monthly inspections and ICA also uses an independent elevator company as a consultant on ICA’s maintenance work, Clark said.
The company also has been working to figure out how to keep all the elevators working on a continual basis. “We’re trying to identify what these issues are and make a more long-term retrofit,” he said.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.