No ordinary bridge replacement project, the West Virginia Division of Highways’ first contract award of 2001 promised to be unique worldwide in its use of innovative materials, combining the oldest and the newest.
Completed in 2004 by Turman Construction Company of Barboursville for more than $3 million, the Robert C. Beach (formerly West Buckeye) Bridge carrying Monongalia County 39 over Dunkard Creek east of WV 7 in the Morgantown area is a high-tech structure believed by WVU wood technology research personnel to be the world’s longest three-hinge timber arch bridge.
Designed in cooperation with the university, with funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration under a special program to encourage new technology, the 149-foot single-span bridge, which includes high performance steel, has two 11-foot lanes with four-foot shoulders and a five-foot upstream sidewalk.
But what made it unusual enough to include a small, handicap-accessible parking lot nearby for observers during its construction were its fiber-reinforced polymer deck, developed by a Kansas City manufacturer, and its fiber-reinforced glue-laminated timber arch, developed by an Oregon manufacturer. The arch, which provides a 16-foot vertical clearance above the deck, has 15 cables on each side and three steel hinges—two at the points where the floor beams are attached and one at the apex because of the arch’s length.