Bridge trouble

Accidents in the Charleston jurisdiction on the Ravenel Bridge:2009: 14 recorded accidents, no fatalities.2010: 30 accidents, 1 fatality.2011: 31 accidents, 1 fatality.2012 (as of 4/29): 6 accidents, no fatalities.*Source: Charleston police*Mount Pleasant police didn’t respond to a request for accident records

A drunken late-night motorist slams into the rear of the car in front of him, spinning it into a concrete barrier on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and killing the driver.

A man in a Lexus veers to a halt across lanes and holds police and traffic at bay for more than two hours.

Suicides, pedal-to-the-floor speeders. Even before Monday’s crash between a tractor-trailer truck and several vehicles, including a police cruiser, the wide-span bridge over the Cooper River has seemed to draw the horrible and spectacular as well as backed-up traffic in the wake.

The 5-year-old, eight-lane bridge has had its share of wrecks — more than 80 since 2009 on the Charleston side alone.

But engineers say the design is safe.

Police who patrol it say problems are exacerbated by a design shortcoming and reckless drivers.

“It lacks a proper breakdown lane. When a vehicle breaks down, there’s nowhere for the vehicle to go,” said Lt. Jason Emanuele, Charleston police special units commander.

There’s also no place for a squad car to sit while checking for speeders, he said.

The situation is hairy enough that in 2006, a motorist struck a Mount Pleasant police car pulled over on the bridge to watch for speeders.

Charleston and Mount Pleasant police regularly cite speeders, some going more than 100 mph. The city and town each have jurisdiction over half the bridge.

The bridge “is straight and fast and wide open, and (especially) late at night, people like to hit it,” Emanuele said.

The state has no ongoing concerns with the Ravenel Bridge design, said Robert Clark, S.C. Department of Transportation district engineering administrator.

“The bridge was designed to current design standards,” he said about the breakdown lanes.

The bridge is no more dangerous than the interstate, Emanuele said.

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