Mount Pleasant S.C. (WCBD) – In this week’s edition of “2 Your Roots”, we take a look at the history behind the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
A fan favorite for tourists and locals, its sleek symmetry has seamlessly woven itself into Charleston’s history. Considering the name, it should come as no surprise that Arthur Ravenel Jr., a Charleston politician, spearheaded the campaign for the new bridge.
Alongside Ravenel Jr., former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and deceased former Mayor of Mount Pleasant Harry Hallman were big advocates for a bridge that would carry Charleston into the future. In the mid-’90s Hallman asked Ravenel Jr. to run for state senate, get elected, and secure funding.
The Ravenel’s predecessor, the Cooper River Bridge, (later named the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge) opened on August 8th, 1929. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, “When opened… the Cooper River Bridge was the longest span of its type in the world—2.7 miles long and 20 feet wide. In 1943 it was officially named the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge in honor of the former mayor of Charleston who had fought to have the bridge built.”
The bridge was described as structurally unsound at best and in 1966, a new bridge was opened next to it and named for the then-South Carolina Highway Commissioner, Silas N. Pearman. Both bridges are said to have been “functionally obsolete by 1979”.
In 1995, officials revealed that the Grace Memorial Bridge scored a 4 out of 100 for safety and integrity. Shortly after the study, Arthur Ravenel Jr. claimed a senate seat and started the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to secure the remaining funds needed for the construction of a new bridge.
Groundbreaking for the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge happened in 2001 in Mount Pleasant. After officially opening on July 16, 2005, it became the longest cable-stayed bridge of its time in North America and the tallest structure in South Carolina.