Can the Ravenel Bridge handle more traffic? | News

MOUNT PLEASANT — Years ago, when he routinely donned his helmet, he placed stickers on the worn shell.

One of them, a 787, commemorates the time he helped build the Boeing assembly facility. Another shows a skull, backgrounded by tools tilted like crossbones. Then there’s the dusty strip with his name, Jeff TenEyck.

Now retired, TenEyck doesn’t wear the hat much, although he recently donned it to prune trees. But the construction worker still contains traces of a long career in construction; the surface is littered with crumbling, gray spots.

“That,” said TenEyck, “is concrete.”

It’s hard to know where the splats come from. Somewhere across the Cooper River at the construction site of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a likely source. TenEyck, 74, helped build the massive cable-stayed bridge that connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant and beyond.

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Jeff TenEyck discusses the construction of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge on Monday, October 9, 2023 in Mount Pleasant.

For five years he worked 71 hours a week as chief quality controller for Wando Beton. He woke up at four in the morning and returned home in the dark. He worked through the scorching heat and driving rain.

TenEyck’s task? Test the strength of the concrete that makes up the enormous span.

“The integrity of the bridge, I’m verifying that,” he said.

TenEyck is originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, although he lived in the Charleston area for 27 years. That’s a little longer than the bridge – ‘my bridge’, he jokingly calls it – has been there.

An unofficial logo of the Holy City, the undulating structure towers high yet blends into the landscape as effortlessly as a bend in the river below. When the bridge opened in 2005, local residents exhaled. It replaced stomach-churning white-knuckle treks over narrow – and often swaying – predecessors, the John P. Grace and Silas N. Pearman Bridges.

Today, the Ravenel Bridge is all that many newcomers have ever known.

Transplants have thickened the parade of cars that cross the building. Its maturation coincided with a huge population explosion. From Awendaw to Hollywood, Goose Creek to Folly Beach, dozens of people are settling here. The infrastructure, including the Ravenel Bridge, is coming under the pressure of this growth and the extra weight.