A toast to the engineering marvel and now iconic landmark
Charlestonians in tuxedos and ball gowns dined on its deck while the Charleston Symphony Orchestra provided the score, military planes soared above the 575-foot-tall diamond towers, and a massive $250,000 fireworks display illuminated the cables during a week of celebrations leading up to the opening of the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge 15 years ago on July 16. The construction of the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America took four years, cost $632 million, and dramatically changed the Holy City’s skyline, becoming an iconic landmark and a tourist destination in and of itself. Suspended by 128 cables, the roadbed rises 186 feet over the Cooper River, leaving plenty of room for the port’s container ships to pass underneath. The engineering marvel is designed to withstand wind gusts of more than 300 mph and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The eight-lane span—named after the state senator who spearheaded the campaign for it to be built—replaced the three-lane Silas Pearman Bridge, which opened in 1966, and the original two-lane Grace Memorial Bridge from 1929.