Lately, the birds are the only ones with views from the very top of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. For the past several years, the elevators inside the towers of the bridge have been balky, stuck, or out of order.
“They’re still not working,” said S.C. Department of Transportation spokesman James Law.
That answer came as a result of The Post and Courier’s latest attempt to venture to the top of the bridge to photograph the nearly 40,000 runners and walkers expected to cross it April 6 during the Cooper River Bridge Run.
Questions about the elevator trouble came to light in 2010, shortly after a state representative was stuck in one of them. Since then, despite some repair work, the problems persist.
Pete Poore, communications director for the DOT, could say only that the four elevators are “functioning but not reliable.”
The elevators’ manufacturer said the problems are maintenance issues. Law had referred further questions to Poore, but Poore said he was unable to reach the appropriate staff in Charleston to get more details.
A representative of Specialized Engineering Products Ltd., the Canadian company that built and installed the elevators, said technicians from the company returned two years ago for maintenance and repairs.
“We got them up and going,” said Bill Nesteruk, the company’s chief executive officer.
Nesteruk said his company was supposed to be called back at least twice a year since the elevators were installed, but that hasn’t happened.
The company’s trips can be costly. The basic labor fee for two technicians comes to about $150 an hour, according to Nesteruk. That doesn’t include the flight, hotel and per diem for the week-long trip that would also need to be covered.
Nesteruk said routine maintenance of the elevators is vital.
“It’s many minor, little details. If you don’t inspect them and see everything is working when doing the tests (on the elevators),” he said, “just one thing can make the machine stop.”
The elevators are rare in their design because they don’t move along one slope, according to Nesteruk. Instead, they move around bends.
Former state Rep. Tom Dantzler of Goose Creek was stuck in the elevator in 2010. The DOT said at the time that it hadn’t been happy with the operation of the elevators since the bridge was built. The manufacturer had said the department was to blame for the lack of maintenance.
Meanwhile, the elevators, which were designed for maintenance workers, often remain at a standstill.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.