Arthur Ravenel Jr. / Cooper River Bridge

 

By: Staff Editor, Charleston Harbor Tours
October 10, 2007

The Arthur Ravenel Bridge, also called the Cooper River Bridge, is one of the Charleston attractions that should definitely not be missed! From its breathtaking diamond towers to its length of over 13,000 ft the bridge is an overwhelming sight. Connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant, the Arthur Ravenel Bridge has an intricate history that began long before the bridge itself was constructed.

Before the Arthur Ravenel Bridge was constructed in 2005, two other bridges stood in its place; the Grace Memorial Bridge, and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge. The Grace Memorial Bridge was named after John P. Grace who in 1928 finally raised enough money to construct a bridge that would connect cross the Cooper River and Town Creek.  The bridge was 2.71 miles long and only took 17 months to build, but cost $6 million dollars to construct.  Already in 1929 at its opening, the bridge was 15 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge stands today.

The Silas N. Pearman Bridge opened in 1966 parallel to the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge in order to alleviate traffic and provide an alternative way to get from Mount Pleasant to Charleston.  The bridge was named after the South Carolina Highway Commissioner of the time, and cost $15 million to construct.

By 1979, the two bridges were no longer enough to support the heavy flow of traffic on Highway 17. Their metal frames had severely deteriorated; they had no emergency lanes, and no medians between lanes going in opposite directions. Furthermore, the once incredible height of the bridges was no longer able to sustain passage of modern shipping traffic.  It was high time for a new bridge to be built.

The new Arthur Ravenel/Cooper River Bridge opened on July 16, 2005 after a week of festivities including concerts, dinners, and fireworks to celebrate its construction. It was designed to withstand wind gusts of 300 miles per hour, and earthquakes at 7.4 on the Richter scale. It cost over $700 million to construct, and was designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The gorgeous bridge was named after retired congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr. who ran for the South Carolina Senate with a plan for fundraising that would solve the bridge problem in Charleston. He helped establish the South Carolina Infrastructure Bank and worked with local officials to finally materialize funding that would enable the construction of a new bridge.

The Arthur Ravenel Bridge now has eight lanes of traffic and one shared pedestrian/bicycling lane, and has splendid views of the Charleston Harbor.

The signature diamond tower design has made the bridge a famous landmark, with each one standing over 575 feet high.  A sight not to miss, the bridge symbolizes the cultural and industrial development in Charleston throughout its history. Come aboard one of our boats to see this world renowned marvel and enhance your understanding of this historical city.

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