Discover the Longest Bridge in South Carolina – A 13,200-Foot Behemoth

Updated: May 28, 2023
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Many of us underestimate the importance of bridges. Most people drive every day and may drive across bridges often, but they don’t really stop to think about them while doing so. Bridges can be astounding feats of engineering.

Extremely long bridges are particularly impressive. They need to be built in such a way that the entire length of the bridge is adequately supported.

Many of these bridges are suspended over bodies of water. There are many rivers and lakes in the state of South Carolina, so it follows that there must be many bridges. Read on to discover the longest bridge in South Carolina!

What Is the Longest Bridge in South Carolina?

The longest bridge in South Carolina is the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Some also call it the New Cooper River Bridge. It was named after the Republican South Carolina State senator, Arthur Ravenel Jr., who was largely responsible for the bridge’s funding. Ravenel spearheaded the campaign to build this new bridge.

Arthur Ravenal Jr. bridge in South Carolina
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina is a beacon of pride and elegance for the community of Charleston.

© Martin

Longest Bridge in South Carolina: Vital Statistics

The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge is 13,200 feet (approximately 2.5 miles) long. Construction on this bridge started in 2001, and it opened to the public in July 2005.

This bridge has eight lanes for vehicles, in addition to one 12-foot lane for pedestrians and bicycles. This lane has the name Wonders Way, in memory of Garrett Wonders, who died in a vehicle-bicycle collision. No pets are allowed in this lane. The slope of the path is between 1.8% and 5.6%, making it somewhat of a challenge for those biking uphill.

The bridge has a total span at its longest point of 1,546 feet. It is not only very long, but it also has an incredibly sturdy design. The bridge can handle Category 5 hurricanes and earthquakes up to a magnitude of 7.4 on the Richter scale. It can also withstand wind gusts up to 300 miles per hour.

With 187 feet of clearance below, it also allows modern ocean freighters to get to the Port of Charleston.

Design Elements of the Longest Bridge in South Carolina

The design includes cables that are anchored and secured by stainless steel special washers to the towers in order to support the roadway. These cables can hold over 500 tons of weight. The strongest of the cables between the support peers consists of 90 separate 7-wire stands. The bridge supports approximately 80,000 vehicles that cross it daily on US Route 17.

Another protective mechanism built into the bridge was the one-acre rock islands. Workers built these around the bridge towers. The purpose was to stop any potentially drifting ships from ramming into and damaging the bridge.

The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge is not only a bridge that has eased traffic in the area, but it is also an actual Charleston tourist attraction. It is actually the longest cable-stayed bridge in all of North America, as well as the tallest structure in South Carolina. The diamond towers are about 575 feet tall. LEGO even made a limited-edition Ravenel Bridge set!

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is the longest bridge in South Carolina.

© Ballard

History of the Longest Bridge in South Carolina

The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge replaced two bridges that had previously traversed the Cooper River. One was the Grace Memorial Bridge, which had two lanes. The other was the three-lane Silas Pearman Bridge. These two bridges were antiquated, both in terms of appearance and functionality. They connected the cities of Mount Pleasant and Charleston.

History of the Original Bridges

The Grace Memorial Bridge opened in 1929, as a narrow toll bridge with two lanes. The Silas Pearman Bridge opened in 1966, in order to support growing traffic. These bridges had essentially become obsolete. The lanes were too narrow, the capacity was insufficient, and there wasn’t enough ship channel clearance.

Before these bridges, people had to rely on private boats and ferries to cross the Cooper River. Intermittently, they would have to rely on these again when the bridges were non-functional.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation put a new project into place as a solution. They planned to complete the project within five years. The new bridge needed to be high enough to accommodate any ship traffic. It also needed to be strong enough to withstand natural disasters.

Additionally, they wanted the bridge to be attractive to the public, as many people saw the current bridges as eyesores.

Before the new bridge opened, police officers would have to reverse traffic every afternoon on the Grace Memorial Bridge, in order for two out of the three lanes to be able to carry vehicles to Mount Pleasant. These officers would have to direct traffic flow during rush hour every weekday in order to minimize congestion.

The New Bridge: An Effective Solution

When the new eight-lane bridge opened, traffic was no longer an issue. In 2007, demolition (via dynamite) commenced on the former bridges. Citizens of the two cities actually celebrated this event on July 4. The project reached completion about a year ahead of schedule, saving the taxpayers 150 million dollars.

Not only did the new bridge eliminate traffic congestion, but it was also much more visually appealing. Many would consider it a humongous work of art on its own. Easy access to parking is available on each side of the bridge.

Many would say that walking or biking across this bridge is a worthwhile experience in itself. It allows you to observe the intricacies of its construction with a more observant eye.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina
Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge has eight lanes, which eliminated traffic congestion that previous smaller bridges created.


Animals Living Around the Longest Bridge in South Carolina

Most rivers are full of life, and Cooper River is no exception. There are many fish that live in this river, under the Arthur Ravenal, Jr. Bridge. These include walleye, catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, bluegill, rainbow trout, and many more. People going fishing here might also find largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, striped bass, and Atlantic sturgeon.

If you walk around on the banks of the Cooper River, you may also see many other animals. These include muskrats, North American river otters, American minks, salamanders, Northern pintails, royal terns, and perhaps great egrets. It’s possible that you might see an American alligator as well.

Where is The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge Located on a Map?

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge located in South Carolina, United States. It crosses over the Cooper River, connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. With a main span of 1,546 feet, it ranks as the third longest among all cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere.

Here is The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge on a map:

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Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina
Landscape view of the Copper River Bridge at sunset.

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