‘More than Just a Bridge’
“To many, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is more than just a bridge,” wrote The Post and Courier in an article on the bridge’s anniversary. “Many people view it as an emblem of modern Charleston … They say it has helped businesses thrive, added a new dimension to the skyline, and reshaped the way we think about transportation, infrastructure and exercise.”
From the very beginning, the local populace was deeply involved in the planning, design and construction of the 2.5-mile-long, eight-lane bridge that connects Charleston with Mount Pleasant. During public hearings, residents expressed their preference for diamond-shaped towers and pressed for the addition of a walkway/bikeway that has proved hugely popular. When the bridge opened in July of 2005 as the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America, Charleston threw a week-long party, including fireworks and a black-tie gala with a performance by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra on the bridge deck.
A decade later, the community’s enthusiasm for the bridge has not diminished, as evidenced during the turnout for a two-day festival July 17-19 at Patriots Point, which offered various activities, including parties, concerts and the opportunity to take part in building a large-scale LEGO® model of the bridge.
During the anniversary event, Abrahams recalled that the Ravenel Bridge was intended to replace two outmoded bridges built in 1929 and 1966, but gradually consensus emerged that the new bridge should be a landmark of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
“When we started the design we envisioned this as a solution to an engineering problem—how do you replace two decrepit bridges that were inadequate, one of which was potentially unsafe, and a source of accidents. We were going to solve that engineering problem,” Abrahams says. “But as it evolved, the project certainly became an icon … and now, of course, it’s a beloved part of the community.”