More Than a Facelift

If overweight trucks cross the revamped Market Street Bridge when it reopens to traffic later this year, state highway officials plan to find out about it.

A nearly two-year, $14.5 million effort to rehabilitate the 106-year-old span is about 80 percent complete and the bridge should open on its scheduled date of Oct. 28, West Virginia Division of Highways Area Supervisor Joe Juszczak told members of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce this week. He said the main truss is completely painted and crews planned to erect scaffolding Wednesday to paint the bridge’s two towers.

“Unless something drastic happens, we should be able to make that date without any problems,” said Juszczak.

The work, he noted, includes installation of sensors that will record the weight of vehicles crossing the bridge, which connects downtown Steubenville with W.Va. 2 just north of Follansbee. Juszczak said the sensors won’t be for enforcement – at least not initially – but to keep watch on how much stress the aging bridge withstands.

West Virginia University plans to record and monitor that data for the DOH. It’s a high-tech step for a structure built in 1905, mainly to accommodate streetcar and pedestrian traffic.

Another sign of how things have changed over the bridge’s life span: The price tag to renovate the bridge is more than 11 times what the state paid to purchase it in 1942.

But it’s money well-spent, according to Mayor Tony Paesano, who will end his 10-year tenure in office June 30. The city’s fight to save the bridge, once slated for demolition, is one of the things he’s most proud of in his decade as mayor.

He acknowledged nostalgia and sentiment played a role in his advocacy for the bridge, but he is unwavering in his belief the span is crucial to Follansbee’s future and the safety of its residents.

“Economically, it’s big,” said Paesano, noting he often sees Ohio license plates in parking lots of local businesses. “It’s a major impact if that bridge is closed.”

Paesano said the bridge provides the most direct route from Follansbee to Trinity Hospital East in Steubenville. And, he pointed out, if the bridge is closed and a problem shuts down the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Weirton, there would be no Ohio River crossing between Newell and Wheeling.

One chamber member asked if the bridge would be as safe to cross as a new bridge. Juszczak said it would be, as long as vehicles observe the posted, 5-ton weight limit.

The weight limit will be unchanged, but the height limit will be decreased from 11 feet to 10 feet when the bridge reopens.

Juszczak said structural repairs are nearly complete, decorative lighting is on site and that phase is expected to get under way soon.

There will be continuous, LED lighting along the main truss and 11 spotlights on each tower. Each suspension cable will be outfitted with “necklace” lights, he said.

The lead contractor for the project is Kokosing Construction of Fredericktown, Ohio, which bought out original contractor, Ahern and Associates of Charleston, last year. Workers have put in more than 40,000 man-hours since the project began in January 2010, Juszczak said.

Officials originally estimated the cost at $13.7 million, but that was before they discovered the bridge decks weren’t made of galvanized steel. The additional sandblasting that find prompted put the project about $800,000 over budget.