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Building the Bridge

The Need

The two original bridges crossing the Cooper River were determined to be functionally obsolete. The Grace Memorial Bridge carried traffic for seventy six years and had two narrow 10-foot lanes, did not have any shoulders, and was limited to carrying vehicles weighing less than five tons. Because of the weight limit on the Grace Bridge, all Charleston bound heavy trucks, recreational vehicles, and busses were diverted to the single southbound lane on the Pearman Bridge. The Pearman Bridge, built in 1968, had three 12-foot lanes but did not have shoulders or a median separating its northbound and southbound traffic. Neither bridge offers a vertical or horizontal clearance to safely accommodate the latest large shipping vessels. Once the replacement bridge opened, the two existing bridges were removed. A joint venture of Jay Cashman, Inc. and Testa Corporation completed the demolition.

As outlined in the 1998 Final environmental Impact Statement, there was a need to replace the Grace and Pearman Bridges with a new Ravenel Bridge that:

  • Increased the capacity of US 17 over the Cooper River to accommodate area growth predictions.
  • Improved traffic safety by meeting current design standards and eliminating substandard safety factors.
  • Reduced the frequency and costs of the major bridge maintenance activities that are necessary because of the age and design of the existing bridges
  • Increased the vertical and horizontal navigational clearances to accommodate the current needs of
    the many seafaring vessels traveling up and down the Cooper River.

For years there had been a need to replace the Cooper River Bridges, but this effort would not have been possible without partnerships to design and build the new bridge and especially the innovative partnerships to fund the project.

Picture of a Ship passing under the existing Bridge