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Rehabilitation Proposal Released for WV Bridge

Friday, April 24, 2020

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The West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (WVDOH) in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has released a proposal for the rehabilitation of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

The historic suspension bridge spans the Ohio River, connecting Wheeling Island to downtown Wheeling, West Virginia.

About the Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Originally built in 1849, the structure was reported at one time to be the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, measuring roughly 1,010 feet from tower to tower, with its longest span measuring 949 feet.

On May 17, 1854, the bridge collapsed and a temporary structure opened only a few months later in July, while a permanent structure opened six years later, in July 1860. According to reports, other various improvements were made to the bridge between 1871-72 and in 1886, 1922, 1930, and 1956, among other years.

Over time, the suspension bridge has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and listed as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

In March 2013, a snapped cable discovered during a routine inspection forced the closure of vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the bridge. According to Dave Sada, the Division of Highway District 6 Bridge Engineer at the time, corrosion was the culprit behind the cable break.

The bridge has a total of 12 iron cables—10 large and two small—suspended from its towers. In 1983, the cables were examined and determined to be in good condition; however, the cables were then rewrapped with a modern, elastomeric plastic, according to a history by the Ohio County Public Library.

At the time, state highway officials were already been planning to clean, paint, upgrade lighting, and make minor structural repairs to the span. Work for the project was projected cost up to $8.2 million and was slated to start later that year.

However, in February 2015, frigid temperatures were blamed for another snapped cable, causing a second shutdown for emergency repairs in two years’ time.

By September 2019, officials told WTRF that the Wheeling Suspension Bridge would close indefinitely to all vehicular traffic, but would remain open to pedestrians.

“It’s very important for us to make sure that we maintain that bridge and it’s very important that we also don’t put it at risk and so in order to keep the bridge, people and public safety, it was decided upon to close that until permanent repairs can be made,” Joe Yuszczak, Acting District Engineer said at the time.

Previously, the bridge had closed for a six-week period in June, after a charter bus that exceeded the structure’s weight limit, crossed. The bridge was reopened after receiving additional signage and passing various inspections.

What’s Happening Now

In a statement issued by the WVDOH, the Department intends to rehabilitate the structure and has announced some associated closures with the project.

More specifically, a temporary closing of the Wheeling Heritage Trail—a paved shared-use trail that extends along the east side of the Ohio River—to ensure the safety of trail users while crews move materials and equipment for the project.

The closures are reported to be coordinated with the city through a 14-day advanced notice being published.

WTOV Channel 9 News adds that the trail will remain open during the Memorial Day holiday from the Thursday before to Memorial Day, however.

Closures are expected to occur over an 18-month period. Comments regarding the project are due online or in writing to the WVDOH by June 4, 2020.


Tagged categories: Bridge cables; Bridges; Bridges; Historic Structures; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair; Upcoming projects

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