Until November 1998, economic development of some of the best land in West Virginia was hindered by the lack of a Kanawha River crossing within 32 miles of Buffalo.
Providing a direct connection from a new US 35 upgrade to I-64, the Lower Buffalo Bridge is a testimony to West Virginia’s ability to meet the challenge of conceptualizing, clearing major environmental hurdles, designing, permitting and constructing a major river structure in only 30 months—in time for a new Toyota manufacturing facility to begin shipping state-of-the-art engines.
Necessary clearances, handled in record time by Highways’ own environmental section with aid from its consultant, involved spanning areas of known archaeological deposits and assuring that remaining foundation locations would not disturb others. In similar time, Highways’ bridge staff and its consultant, with assistance from the Federal Highway Administration and others, designed and prepared construction documents.
By summer 1998, cooperation from steel fabricators and shippers allowed successful delivery of large and unwieldy box girders containing 3,500 tons of steel to the bridge site, where contractor National Engineering and Contracting Company of Strongsville, Ohio, had piers and foundations ready. With the cooperation of the US Coast Guard, all river traffic was halted for two eight-hour periods so that the segments—each 475 tons, 435 feet long, 13.5 feet deep and 10 feet wide—that had been assembled on barges could be hoisted 70 feet to mate with superstructure ends cantilevered 45 feet out from the river piers.
With a twin haunched steel box girder superstructure supporting two 12-foot lanes and six-foot shoulders and a total length of 1,850 feet, the Lower Buffalo Bridge is one of the longest continuous steel box girder bridges in the United States and its 525-foot center span ranks third for its type nationwide.