Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester Counties

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Graceful bridge an instant icon for the state

Jul. 1, 2005
The State
THE TWO NEW TOWERS lure the eye, jutting up amid the flat Lowcountry landscape. The elongated diamonds of the towers seem to change shape based on the viewerís perspective, like a sculpture being examined from different angles. From downtown, the triangles formed by tower and cable evoke sailboats ó and as its architect envisioned, thatís a perfect fit for Charleston.

This week, South Carolina has welcomed a structure that comes ready-made as a state landmark. Judging by the warm public reception for the new Cooper River bridge, folks are pleased with the beautiful addition to South Carolinaís vistas. Last weekend, the bridge was opened up to pedestrians, and more than 100,000 folks headed out to examine the new 1,500-foot main span. In Charleston, the new bridge already has joined the cityís iconography, turning up on everything from paintings to company logos. As the big bridge (officially, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge) opens to vehicle traffic today, it already has won hearts on the coast.

Itís more than a work of art, of course: Itís a working part of the stateís transportation structure. It is the largest of its type ó a cable-stayed span bridge ó in North America. Its eight vehicle lanes will handle the increased traffic between Mount Pleasant and Charleston for decades to come. The higher roadbed will allow for larger ships to pass underneath, helping to ensure that Charleston can continue to be a major economic gateway into the Southeast.

Despite its elegance, itís not fragile, which is appropriate. The forces of nature periodically deal Charleston some hard knocks, and the new bridge is built to take them. It was designed to withstand major hurricanes and the most calamitous of earthquakes.

As impressive as the bridge itself has been the way it has come to be. Citizen input was sought and heeded, including on the initial design. In response to a grassroots movement, designers added another lane, reserved for walkers and bicyclists. By listening to the voices of the community, a good bridge design became much better.

This bridge was completed almost a year ahead of schedule, and is designed to last for 100 years. With its elegant and efficient design, it shows that handling community growth does not require the construction of the ugly and cheap; South Carolina can build something wonderful, if that is the goal it sets from the start. Congratulations to all involved in bringing this majestic addition to the Lowcountry.
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