So the Ravenel Bridge was closed for 49 hours this past week.


A couple of weeks before that it was closed for 43 hours, then open for the morning commute before shutting down yet another 10 hours because of ice falling from its cable stays.

Then it was blocked for two more hours later that night when Phillip DeClemente was, well, being Phillip DeClemente.

This is beyond ridiculous.

This "sensitive" bridge and its sand allergy is disrupting Lowcountry commerce, forcing school closures and causing Mount Pleasant residents to miss out on Southeastern Wildlife Exposition events.

The madness has to stop.

Every other bridge in the Lowcountry was open for most of winter Stormageddon Parts I and II, yet our $630 million icon was sitting there about as useful as a tree ordinance on James Island.

Obviously, it's time for our legislative delegation to go back to the State Infrastructure Bank and get us another billion dollars.

We need a winter bridge because the Ravenel has turned out to be little more than a fair-weather span.

Hot cocoa - cheap

The Upstate folks aren't going to like this.

They think Charleston already soaks up too much of the state's infrastructure dollars, between 526, the Crosstown and, yes, the Ravenel Bridge.

Well, Greenville is just going to have to understand.

All this natural beauty is, in some ways, a curse. We have to be able to get over all this gorgeous water because we have things to do - Spoleto Festivals to plan, beaches to not drink on, tourists to despise. And who has time to get their boat out?

What we need is a bridge to serve as a Ravenel back-up, something immune to the fickleness of climate change.

State Rep. Jim Merrill thinks it's a good idea to build a winter bridge, maybe even with a cover on it.

"We could have a hot chocolate stand at the top," he says, tongue in cheek. "And heaters - that would be nice."

Yes, that's just what we need to keep the universe rotating around us.

Of course, everyone else is going to gripe. But if the Department of Transportation would quit being so sensitive, block off the Ravenel's closed drainage system and spread some sand over the bridge, this wouldn't be an issue.

So it's the DOT's fault. And if you can blame the DOT, a state agency, is that not an indictment of the entire state of South Carolina? And if this is the state's fault, is it not the responsibility of all of the state's citizens? That means they have to fix this problem, and chip in for our winter bridge.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard says at the very least this is Gov. Nikki Haley's fault. He says that instead of picking fights with the Georgia governor because her brother was stuck in Atlanta traffic, she should have made the DOT prepare the Ravenel Bridge for ice and make it safe for traffic.

The governor said Friday she was concerned about the length of the bridge closure and is checking into the state's warranty. Guess they didn't buy the extended protection plan.

"The leadership was poor," Gilliard says. "The local law enforcement did a good job. They did the best they could."

Yes, local law enforcement made the call to keep the bridge closed. But they had no choice - it wasn't safe.

And that's because the DOT wouldn't put sand on the Ravenel Bridge.

A simple solution

Merrill says we shouldn't stop with one more bridge.

How about a spring bridge that repels pollen?

Or a fall bridge with monitors so we can keep up with football?

These are good ideas, and the rest of South Carolina is just going to have to understand. An extra bridge would keep traffic moving in Charleston, and serve as a back-up the next time someone tries to block the Ravenel.

Charleston is not unreasonable. All we need is our bridges open. And the cruise ships gone, the pedicabs to stop giving tours and somebody to cart the coyotes off of Sullivan's Island.

But mainly we need a bridge that actually accommodates 60,000 cars a day.

So the state needs to pony up the $1 billion it's going to cost to build our winter bridge. And if they think that's too expensive, well, maybe they could just spring for $100 worth of sand to keep the Ravenel open.

But apparently that idea makes too much sense.

Reach Brian Hicks at