Market Street Bridge Closed

The Market Street Bridge was closed a day earlier than expected as state highway officials stepped up repairs to a truss near the span’s Ohio approach.

State highway officials said the span will remain closed for four to six weeks while the repairs are made, with the Veterans Memorial Bridge serving as the primary detour, and the development isn’t expected to affect plans to renovate the bridge next year.

Marvin Murphy, state director of engineering for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said engineers had found a missing brace led to additional stress on a section of the truss, the metal framework that supports the bridge.

Plans had called for the brace and sections of the truss to be replaced by state crews late Friday afternoon, he said.

But engineers with the Federal Highway Administration and Burgess and Niple, the Parkersburg, W.Va., firm hired to plan renovations to the span, noted that under such conditions, the bridge doesn’t meet current standards set for the bridge’s 5-ton weight limit, Murphy said.

He said though state officials feel the bridge currently is safe, they decided on Thursday morning to move up the repairs in light of the engineers’ concerns.

Murphy said since the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35 West Bridge in Minneapolis, officials are hesitant to permit use of a span if they can’t thoroughly document its safety on paper.

Brent Walker, communications director for the state Department of Transportation, said the cost for the repairs hasn’t been determined.

Murphy said they aren’t expected to interfere with plans for major renovations to the span.

He said some of the same FHA engineers who found the bridge to be a good candidate for repairs were involved in assessing the damages currently under repair and nothing else has been found to warrant calling off the renovations.

He said the bridge will be evaluated again before it is re-opened.

State highway officials announced earlier this month they hope to hire a contractor in November to repair the 105-year-old bridge’s towers, Ohio approach spans and stiffening truss and replace its mobile inspection platforms.

The bridge also is slated to get a facelift, with the work list also including cleaning and painting the span a color chosen through a public poll, pressure washing the stone tower piers and the addition of decorative lighting similar to that on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

Plans call for the bridge to be closed from January through November and again between March and October of 2011 during the project, which has been estimated at $10 million. State officials cited the need to place heavy equipment on the bridge during the project as a primary reason for the closings.

Individuals can vote on the bridge’s future colors through an Internet poll found at www.wva.state.wv.us/wvdot/marketstreetbridge.

The Web site has altered photos of the span designed to aid them in visualizing it in five color schemes: with blue towers and cables and yellow trusses; with red towers and cables and white trusses; with green towers and cables and yellow trusses; with blue towers and cables and gray trusses; and green towers and cables and gray trusses.

The deadline for the poll is Aug. 22.