HICKS COLUMN: A man and his bridge — but not his elevators

It is so South Carolina to build a $632 million bridge with four elevators — and only one of them goes all the way to the top.

If that's not a fitting symbol for our state, what is?

The Department of Transportation says the maintenance elevators in the nearly 8-year-old Ravenel Bridge are rickety because of — get this — too little maintenance. One of them has a busted bracket, another has bum brakes, and a third is awaiting parts from the Czech Republic.

If that's not bad enough, the one elevator that allegedly does work comes with a warning from DOT that you ride at your own risk.

Maybe they should quit cutting down trees and fix this.

You have to figure the bridge's namesake — Arthur Ravenel Jr. — might be a little worried about this DOT foul-up besmirching his legacy. Nah.

“It's the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, not the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Elevator,” the former state senator and congressman says.

Yes, Cousin Arthur still has it.

Stranded in the bridge


For years, Ravenel has had folks calling him to ask if they can take in the view from the top of his bridge.

Almost all of them come back with breath-taking pictures and glowing reviews — except for former state Rep. Tom Dantzler, who was stuck in one of the elevators for nearly four hours. There's the first clue that something wasn't quite right here.

It's since gotten so bad that the last guy Ravenel set up for a ride declined to go after hearing the DOT's let-the-rider-beware warning.

Ravenel has never even been on the elevators, as he has the good sense to not particularly like heights. And he sure isn't getting on one now.

“Can you imagine anything more frightening than being stranded in one of those legs?”

No. That would be worse than being stuck in traffic on the old Cooper River bridges.

Take care of the bridge


The Ravenel bridge has been great — it has vastly improved traffic between downtown and Mount Pleasant.

You can thank Ravenel himself for that. He got re-elected to the state Senate just to push the project (hence its name).

But the elevators have been a problem from the start. Ravenel says there's a design flaw.

You don't say.

So now state Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, wants to know how crucial those lifts are to the bridge's operation — and why the state hired somebody out of Canada to work on them. Which was brilliant, since a service call involves an international flight.

“With the DOT, I have discovered their elevators often don't go all the way to the top,” Grooms says. This guy is way too smart for Congress.

The problem is not denying a lucky few that pristine view. It is making sure the bridge can be inspected regularly. We paid a lot of money for that thing, so let's take care of it.

And since we don't need to sully the great Ravenel Bridge with bad publicity, let's name the elevators after some other politician.

There are plenty of them who have given us the shaft over the years.



Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

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