Charleston’s Cooper River Bridge to Open to Traffic July 16

Wed June 22, 2005 - Southeast Edition

CHARLESTON, SC (AP) The longest cable-stayed bridge in North America opens to traffic July 16, highway officials announced June 9 during a windy news conference atop the $632-million Ravenel Bridge spanning the Cooper River.

The opening of the most expensive bridge ever built in South Carolina will be preceded by a weeklong celebration, including fireworks and several days where people will be able to walk across the unopened bridge linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

People did that decades ago when one of the existing twin bridges, the John Grace Memorial Bridge, opened in 1929, said Bobby Clair, the state Department of Transportation engineer overseeing the bridge construction.

The new eight-lane span replaces the two-lane Grace Bridge and the newer, three-lane Silas Pearman Bridge opened in 1966.

The Ravenel Bridge with its diamond-shaped towers has a main span of 1,546 ft., 20 ft. longer than the Alex Fraser Bridge in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada which is now the longest on the continent.

The longest cable-stayed bridge in the world is the Tatara Bridge near Niihama, Japan, with a main span of 2,919 ft.

Clair said work still remains to be done on entrance ramps, signs and lighting.

One ramp from U.S. Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant won’t immediately be open to traffic because of ramps needed to get traffic to the existing bridges. But the new ramp should open within 48 hours of the bridge opening, Clair said.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman said the bridge isn’t just for people in the area.

“The No. 1 industry we have in the state of South Carolina is tourism,” he said. “Highway 17 is our avenue of tourism — it connects Myrtle Beach with Hilton Head and every major tourist attraction in the state.”

The bridge, approximately 200 ft. above the water, also will allow larger cargo ships in and out of the Port of Charleston.

“All of those manufacturing plants in the upper part of the state, in Greenville and Spartanburg, have a window to the rest of the world,” he said. “This is a wonderful project for the state of South Carolina.”