The Ravenel Bridge Project: Delivering Ahead of Schedule and Under Budget

A Risk Management Case Study

By Susan Parente, PMP

Connecticut, USA


In the construction field, being on time, on budget and within scope can sometimes occur as utopian goals. However effective risk management not only supports meeting these objectives, but it may also assist in delivery of project results ahead of schedule and under budget!

The Ravenel Bridge was a design-build project completed in 2005. This bridge replaced the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge and the Silas N. Pearman Bridge, which were built in 1929 and 1966. This bridge was designed to withstand a number of potential hazards, including: earthquakes, hurricanes and ship collisions.

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (also known as the New Cooper River Bridge) Project is an excellent case study of how risk management supports achievement of meeting and exceeding project performance requirements. This bridge not only buoyed the transit connection of the Mount Pleasant and Charleston communities, it provided us with an excellent example of how risk management can make a profound difference in project performance and delivery of project objectives.

This paper reviews the practices used in the construction of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and how they relate to effective project risk management. It details how project risk management supported the completion of this large project under budget and ahead of schedule, while supporting environmentally friendly practices in construction.

We should not be under the impression that all projects are late and over budget. Instead let’s manage project uncertainty (risk) to deliver our projects ahead of schedule, and under budget, while meeting customer satisfaction requirements.


The objectives of this paper, Risk Management Case Study: Delivering Ahead of Schedule and Under Budget are to remind us of the feasibility of not only meeting project objectives of time, cost, and scope by delivering on scope, on time and within the project budget, but also the possibility of delivering project requirements ahead of schedule and under budget. This paper will engage in the topics of effective project planning and execution through the use of risk management. The goal of this paper is to provide readers with a sound example of the benefits of using project risk management for project planning and execution.


The Cooper River Bridge was a construction project of the SCDOT (South Carolina Department of Transportation). This was a bridge replacement project, in the Charleston, South Carolina area. The new bridge, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, replaced 2 bridges which were at their end of life: The Grace Memorial and Pearman Bridges, which were along US 17 over the Cooper River. These bridges connected the cities of Charleston and Mount Pleasant, as did the bridge replacement. (USDOT, FHA, n.d.)

The main contractor for this project was Palmetto Bridge Constructors (PBC), a joint venture of Flatiron’s Civil Division and Tidewater/SKANSKA. A joint venture of TY Lin International and HDR provided design review, engineering and inspection services for SCDOT. The bridge cost was approximately $675 million and was the largest contract in SCDOT’s history. The project cost was 2.5 times the department’s annual construction budget and used a Design-Built approach, which means development began before design was completed.

The project was initiated in July 2001, with a completion of July 2006. The project was planned for 5 years, but PBC planned to complete it in 4 years to decrease overhead costs. The project was broken down into 5 subprojects (or phases): 2 interchanges, 2 high-level approaches, and the main span. Each phase had it own budget, schedule, equipment, and management.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: This paper was originally presented at the 2nd annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA in June 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.



About the Author

pmwj24-jul2014-Parente-AUTHOR IMAGESusan Parente

Connecticut, USA



Susan Parente
, PMP, PMI-ACP, CISSP, PMI-RMP, ITIL, MSEM is a project engineer, consultant, speaker, author, and mentor who leads large complex IT software implementation projects, and the establishment of Enterprise PMOs. Ms. Parente’s focuses on risk management and Agile project management. She has 16+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD. Ms. Parente is also an Associate Professor at Post University in Connecticut. She has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Rochester in NY and has a MS in Engineering Management from George Washington University in DC. She is also PMP, CISSP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP and ITIL certified, and is a CMMI and ISO 9001 Practitioner.

Ms. Parente is a Principal Consultant at S3 Technologies, LLC. Her company’s focuses on revitalizing projects through the use of risk management. S3 Technologies does this by teaming with clients, stakeholders and vendors and using risk management to deliver project successes. Ms. Parente trains and mentors project managers in the area of project and risk management. She is also an Agile project management generalist. Ms. Parente has developed a methodology which she uses to implement risk management programs for both small and large clients and is currently completing her manuscript for a book on implementing risk management.

Susan can be contacted at [email protected]