CHARLESTON, WV –
Due to the traveling public's continued disregard of weight limit and safety signs on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation have opted to close the bridge to vehicular traffic for the foreseeable future.
The closure is effective immediately.
"This is not something that we wanted to do," Secretary of Transportation Byrd White said. "The whole reason we have the safety signs is because we wanted everyday motorists to be able to continue using this iconic and important bridge, while also stopping the heavier traffic that has caused structural damage in the past.
"Unfortunately, the operators of those heavier vehicles continue to ignore our restrictions," Secretary White said. "While the bridge is absolutely in safe condition now, we need to make sure that we're doing everything we can to prevent future damage. Therefore, our only choice is to close the bridge to all motorists for the time being."
The bridge will remain open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Earlier this year, the bridge had to be closed for six weeks after a tour bus – which far exceeded the posted two-ton weight limit – attempted to cross the bridge, only to get stuck under a barrier.
Upon the bridge being deemed safe and reopening to traffic in August, officials from the Division of Highways installed a height barrier with hard restraints to attempt to eliminate such overweight crossings.
However, in the time since, operators of additional vehicles over the weight limit have continued to ignore the restrictions, and have repeatedly driven on the bridge.
"We want to do everything possible to protect this historic structure," Secretary White said. "In this case, that means stopping vehicular traffic altogether."
The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was constructed in 1847 and was part of the National Road – the first major improved highway in the United States built by the federal government, running from Maryland to Illinois. It was the main passageway to the west and was the largest suspension bridge in the world from 1849 to 1851.
The bridge is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
The Division of Highways is currently working on a long-term rehabilitation plan to sustain the bridge far into the future.