First Tower of Ravenel Bridge Completed, Crews Prepare for Hurricane Season

Wed May 26, 2004 - National Edition

CHARLESTON, SC (AP) Construction of the $632 million Ravenel Bridge linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant has reached another milestone –– the first of the two soaring, diamond-shaped towers that will support the cable-stayed bridge is now complete.

Crews finished the tower closest to Charleston last week and plan to pour the 45 cu. yds. (34.4 cu m) of concrete to finish the second tower by Memorial Day.

The completed tower is just over 572 ft. (174.3 m) high and is the tallest man-made structure in the state, officials said.

But now comes an anxious time for the crews building the most expensive bridge in state history.

With hurricane season arriving, the towers will be vulnerable to high winds until cables from the tower are connected to the roadbed. The bridge will have 128 cables reaching from the towers to the roadway.

After Georgetown Steel shut down last year, the bridge builders had to find a new supplier for the steel rods that make up the bridge cables. But a supplier from Texas has been found and two cables a week will be installed on the bridge.

By June, the towers and unfinished road will be able to withstand winds up to 75 mph, although stronger winds could crack the towers and loosen the cables. Hurricane season starts June 1.

"We certainly will be a lot better off when we complete the entire bridge structure," said Charles Dwyer, the project manager with the state Department of Transportation.

When complete, the bridge and its towers will be able to withstand winds of as much as 193 mph.

If all goes according to plan, the bridge will open next May.

"We are on track to complete this project 14 months early," said Bobby Clair, the Department of Transportation engineer overseeing the project. "But we won’t know for sure until after hurricane season."