July 10, 2001

Ceremony held for new Arthur Ravenel Bridge



The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) held a ground breaking ceremony for the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge this Monday. This new eight-lane bridge, which will includes a 12 foot wide bike and pedestrian walkway, will ultimately replace the John P. Grace and Silas N. Pearman Bridges.

bridge3.jpg (112712 bytes) The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, linking Mount Pleasant and downtown Charleston, will be the longest cable-stayed span in North America. It will feature two diamond-shaped towers more than 570 feet tall, and will be supported by drill shafted foundations that extend approximately 210 feet into the ground.

The main span length will be 1546 feet with eight traffic lanes and four foot wide, inside and outside shoulders. The main span will also provide a navigation opening of 186 feet vertically for a future 1,000 foot channel.

Another interesting feature will be elevators for bridge inspectors. Inspection platforms and walkways will be provided under the bridge deck, while the elevators will be located in the bridge towers.

After over 20 years in the making, the new bridge will finally be a reality. Hundreds came out to a little strip of land at the foot of the existing bridges to pay homage to those who fought tooth and nail for the new bridge, and to honor the bridge's namesake.

Guest speakers at the celebration included Governor Jim Hodges, US Senator Fritz Hollings, SCDOT Executive Director Elizabeth S. Mabry, Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman, and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, along with a handful of other local dignitaries and contributors. But the man himself, Arthur Ravenel, Jr., held the crowd's attention the best as he told the story of the fight for the bridge in his own, well-known, homespun manner. Of the many laughs he received during his talk, he earned the most laughter and applause with the comment: "If you can't eat it, spend it or make love to it, you ought to laugh at it!" he said, summing up the culmination of years of political battle for bridge funding with, "Along the way we had some desperate moments. They didn't seem amusing back then, but we're here now... we got our bridge!"bridge2.jpg (56031 bytes)

Construction on the new bridge is expected to last five years, but some state officials believe it can be completed in four years. The existing bridges will remain until the new bridge is completed.

A contract was signed with Palmetto Bridge Constructors for the amount of $531,276,000. Federal funds will cover $96.9 million of this amount. A Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan from the US Department of Transportation for $215 million will also go towards the bridge's construction. SCDOT will contribute up to $8 million per year for 25 years; Charleston County will contribute $3 million per year for 25 years; the South Carolina State Ports Authority will contribute $3 million per year for 25 years; and a $325 million grant from the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank will also go towards bridge funding.


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