Happy New Year, Charleston

Lights on this palmetto tree in Marion Square were enough to stop a few people in their tracks at a New Years Eve celebration on Monday.

In projects big and small, new bridges have shaped the transportation picture of the Lowcountry since 2000.

For starters, the $632 million Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, with its towering twin diamond towers, redefined the Charleston skyline. When it opened in 2005, North America's longest cable-stayed span was celebrated with a $250,000 fireworks show, symphony music and cocktails.

The Ravenel Bridge had four lanes flowing each way, making it a far cry from the roller-coaster-like, two-lane John P. Grace Bridge between Mount Pleasant and Charleston.

The Grace Bridge, built in 1929, was holding its own in the battle against the wind, tide and traffic, but its days were numbered as the state Department of Transportation worked tirelessly to keep it up to standard. The other span that was demolished, the three-lane, two-way Silas N. Pearman Bridge, opened in 1955.

At the other end of the spectrum was the 90-foot-long Turkey Creek Bridge on Murray Drive in Hanahan, small potatoes compared with the Ravenel, it weighed in at $1 million. Like the Ravenel, it also was built in 2005.

The Ben Sawyer Bridge to Sullivan's Island was rebuilt in 2010. The old one was so rusty and beat-up that walking across it was dangerous. Islanders got what they wanted: a $32 million, low-slung, swing-span bridge like the old one, at least in terms of its design.

Unlike Sullivan's Islanders, the residents of Johns, Wadmalaw, Kiawah and Seabrook islands got a tall, new $46 million bridge on Maybank Highway over the Stono River to replace a draw bridge that had snarled traffic for years. The Paul J. Gelegotis Bridge was dedicated in 2004.

Another obsolete, low-level swing bridge over the Stono River was replaced when the the John F. Limehouse Memorial Bridge connecting Johns Island and West Ashley opened in 2003. It cost $30 million.

It's not just bridges that have changed since 2000. There were sizable road projects on Interstate 26 and in areas including Mount Pleasant and Summerville. Intersection improvements seemingly were everywhere, including Folly Road and near Moncks Corner. All of them have changed the way we commute to and from work or just get around.