2016 Eyed for Start Of Ohio River Bridge

Officials lobbying for the construction of a new Ohio River bridge between Brilliant and an area south of Wellsburg are optimistic work on the span can begin in 2016.

John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, said West Virginia Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox advised him and other local officials the acquisition of rights of way for the proposed span could start in 2016.

Brown, Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti, Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne, state Sens. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, and Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, and Delegate Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, met with Mattox in Charleston on May 20 to discuss the project’s status.

Henne said the bridge is one of three major projects being considered for P3 funding, or funds secured through a public-private partnership. Brown said the other two are the development of the King Coal Expressway from Williamstown to Bluefield; and the U.S. 35 corridor, a 35-mile, four-lane highway through Mason and Putnam counties to Interstate 64.

Brown said P3 funding isn’t new and has been adopted in other states to pursue infrastructure projects for which public funds aren’t available.

Simonetti said state highway officials are optimistic the cost for the estimated $120 million span could be repaid in 10 years following its completion. She noted the next step for the project is an agreement between state highway officials in West Virginia and Ohio involving funding for the project.

It’s been suggested Ohio likely is to contribute 25 percent of the cost because much of the Ohio River lies in West Virginia.

Bill Murray, WVDOT’s liaison with the commission, said HDR Engineering of Weirton, which has been chosen to provide preliminary designs for the span, has submitted several deck-width scenarios. All involve three lanes because the number is seen as a cost savings and most suited for the level of traffic the bridge is expected to serve, he said.

Murray said the scenarios will be considered by both WVDOT and ODOT and pending their approval of one, officials hope to have preliminary designs for the bridge by fall.

Plans call for the contractor to complete structural designs for span, taking into account the location, length and other predetermined aspects, after initial construction has begun.

Brown noted about $18 million was earmarked by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd for planning and initial construction for the proposed bridge.

He said the project hinges on continued funding through the Federal Highway Administration, however. He noted the level of federal funding for transportation projects has been hotly debated among Congress in recent years.