Police and transportation officials said there isn't much they can do to avoid traffic headaches like the massive gridlock commuters faced Thursday when negotiations with a suicidal man shut down the Ravenel Bridge.

Police said they didn't have any choice but to close off the bridge while dealing with the agitated man, particularly since they had been told he might have access to weapons or explosives.

And there was no time to plan for any regional approach to easing congestion, as the situation was thrust on them at rush hour, police said.

Charleston Deputy Police Chief Tony Elder said officers did everything they could to get cars off the bridge and motorists moving, but congestion was difficult to avoid with the afternoon commute already under way.

"When you have this kind of spontaneous situation, it's very difficult," he said.

"If you take the Ravenel or Don Holt bridges out of the equation, you are going to have some very challenging issues."

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Capt. Stan Gragg, spokesman for the Mount Pleasant Police Department, said traffic on the East Cooper side was diverted onto Coleman Boulevard and U.S. Highway 17 east to Interstate 526, which nearly came to a standstill as well.

"We have very limited access to and from town," Gragg said. "We did detour them several different ways to alleviate congestion at any one spot."

Pete Poore, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Transportation, said the DOT leaves it up to law enforcement agencies to determine whether a road should be closed and where traffic should be diverted.

"It was an emergency situation that they couldn't plan ahead for, like a hurricane," Poore said. "It was a very inconvenient time for this subject to create the situation he did on the bridge."