WV Transportation

WV Transportation

WV Transportation

WV Department of Transportation

WVDOH provides update on northern panhandle bridge projects


The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) has noteworthy bridges in the northern panhandle, with some of the oldest bridges in the state, and eight bridges cross the Ohio River as the northern panhandle hugs the Ohio River the entire length of its western border.
“Our bridge safety inspection program in West Virginia is robust and exceeds the requirements of the National Bridge Inspection Standards,” said Tracy Brown, P.E. West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) State Bridge Engineer.


MEDIA: For footage of the Market Street Bridge and inspection, CLICK HERE.
Built in 1905 as a private venture, the Market Street Bridge connects WV 2 with the town of Steubenville, Ohio. On Thursday, December 21, 2023, the WVDOH decided to close the bridge to vehicle and pedestrian traffic after quarterly inspections revealed increasing deterioration in the span’s steel support cables.
The 1,800-foot bridge is supported by two massive steel cables. Each support cable is made up of 14 bundles of steel, with each bundle made up of 107 individual strands of wire.
In June 2022, WVDOH bridge inspectors put the bridge on a three-month inspection cycle due to deterioration of the steel support cables within the cable anchorages at the ends of the bridge. At that time, inspectors identified that one of the 14 bundles of wire on the upstream support cable had deteriorated inside the cable anchorage.
The WVDOH then reduced the weight limit on the span to three tons and put the bridge on a three-month inspection cycle to track deterioration of the support cables. Despite lowering the weight on the bridge, the support cables continued to deteriorate.
The WVDOH planned another inspection in late January 2024 to see if the deterioration stopped without traffic on the bridge.

The massive steel cables that hold up the bridge are anchored in steel boxes at each end of the span. The 14 bundles of wire that make up the cables come into the box and are covered with a protective lead covering.
The steel boxes where the cables are anchored are about 12 feet long, five feet deep and four feet wide.
To get into the boxes to inspect the cable bundles a steel cover must be removed. Bridge inspectors can then crawl into the hole, remove the protective covering and use hand tools to scrape away lead and look at the individual wires that make up the cable bundles.

It’s cramped, demanding work.
On Thursday, January 25, 2024, WVDOH bridge inspectors went down into the bridge anchorage boxes to uncover more cable bundles and look for damaged wires. Inspection continued on Friday, January 26, and Monday, January 29, 2024.
Even with no cars on the bridge for a month, inspectors found additional broken wires in some of the cable bundles.
“Once the inspection is complete, we will need to incorporate their findings into our structural analysis of the bridge to determine the extent and cost of the repairs that would be required before the bridge could safely be reopened to traffic,” Brown said.​

On Monday, December 11, 2023, WVDOH bridge engineers closed the Jennings Randolph Bridge, which carries US 30 across the Ohio River between Chester, West Virginia, and East Liverpool, Ohio.
A federally mandated inspection discovered cracking in two welds on the steel bridge structure. The cracks were not visible to the naked eye, but the WVDOH, in an abundance of caution, decided to close the bridge while repairs were completed.
Bridge inspection consultant Modjeski & Masters then identified 18 additional internal defects on welds on the bridge that needed to be repaired before reopening the bridge. Those defects on the bridge have since been repaired.
The bridge reopened on Monday, January 8, 2024. Two lanes of traffic will be maintained on the structure as Triton Construction finishes other work on the span.
“Steel plating is currently being fabricated to install on the bridge, and we expect it will be available to us around the middle of March,” Brown said. “Once we receive the steel plating, we will need to close one lane in each direction on the bridge in order to install the steel plates on the bridge and paint the areas that have received repairs.”

Completed in 1849, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the first bridge to span the Ohio River. The 1,010-foot bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.
The bridge has been closed since 2019, after an oversized tour bus ignored weight restrictions on the span and damaged the structure.
In 2021, Advantage Steel & Construction LLC was awarded a contract for $17.9 million to make repairs to the span, but contractors found the bridge to be more heavily damaged than initially thought.
CONSOR Engineers currently have a contract for inspecting the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. CONSOR is planning to conduct additional load analysis of the span to determine whether the bridge can reopen to foot traffic.
“The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is a national treasure,” Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E. said. “We have a responsibility to preserve that bridge for public use.”

On Wednesday, September 20, 2023, Gov. Jim Justice cut the ribbon officially opening the new Wellsburg Bridge, which connects the towns of Wellsburg, West Virginia, and Brilliant, Ohio. Local citizens had been talking about a bridge to connect the two towns for about 100 years.
Colorado-based Flatiron Construction was awarded a contract for $131 million for construction of the span. Flatiron decided to build the 830-foot main span of the Wellsburg Bridge on the banks of the Ohio River and float it into place.
On Monday, April 26, 2021, the main span of the bridge was floated downstream and lifted into position. It was the largest bridge float in North America.

WVDOH awarded a $215 million project in August 2019 to either substantially rehabilitate or replace a total of 26 bridges along a 5.5-mile section of Interstate 70 between the Ohio state line and Elm Grove, West Virginia. Funded through Gov. Justice’s $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program, it would be one of the largest and most expensive construction projects in state history.
“This portion of I-70 was constructed in the 1950s, and it was felt that the best way to address the issues and needs for this portion of aging infrastructure was to incorporate them all under one construction contract, rather than piecemeal them out one by one over an extended period of time,” Brown said.
“This section of I-70 can see over 30,000 vehicles each day, so we felt that addressing these 26 bridges under one singular contract would provide the least amount of impact and inconvenience to the public,” Brown said. Without Gov. Justice’s Roads to Prosperity program, it would have been next to impossible for the WVDOH to tackle such a huge project at once.

The WVDOH keeps tabs on small bridges, too. In June 2022, the Market Street Bridge in downtown Wheeling was closed after a fire in a homeless encampment under the bridge damaged the bridge deck.
Contractor Charles I. Merlo Inc. is currently replacing the deck on the bridge. On December 1, 2023, Charles I. Merlo Inc. was awarded a contract for $1,351,000 for the job. The bridge is expected to reopen in the late summer of 2024.