Suspension Bridge Reopens for Traffic

WHEELING – Dave Sada breathed a sigh of relief when vehicles started crossing the reopened Wheeling Suspension Bridge on Friday afternoon.

“I am just glad it’s open,” said Sada, bridge engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways, District 6. “We got a little bit lucky to have someone local be able to make this cable.”

The bridge had been closed for nearly two weeks after rust and corrosion caused one of the cables at the northeast end to snap. The closure caused heavier than normal traffic loads on the nearby Fort Henry Bridge.

Sada said a Steubenville-based company provided the new cable and installed it. He said there are no additional restrictions on travel on the bridge, but the 4,000-pound weight limit and an 8-foot height limit will remain in place.

“It is as safe as it normally is,” Sada added.

The bridge – built in 1849, when Wheeling was still part of Virginia – last saw significant renovations in 1999, Sada said. The bridge spans the main channel of the Ohio River to connect Virginia Street on Wheeling Island with 10th Street in downtown Wheeling. DOH officials plan to spend about $8.2 million to renovate the bridge over the next couple of years, beginning in summer 2014. The bridge likely will be closed to traffic for most of that time.

Specific renovation plans for the bridge include spending $4.8 million for “minor structure repairs” and $1.8 million for lighting upgrades. Cleaning and painting also will be performed, as well as other small improvements.

The 1999 project included cleaning and painting, lighting upgrades, excavation and unwrapping of the cables for repairs.

But that was not the first time major work was performed on the span. An article in the May 17, 1854, edition of The Wheeling Intelligencer describes a powerful wind storm that destroyed the bridge.

“With feelings of unutterable sorrow, we announce that the noble and world renowned structure, the WHEELING SUSPENSION BRIDGE, has been swept from its strong holds by a terrific storm, and now lies a mass of ruins!” the paper stated that day.

The bridge was later rebuilt, with travel over it resuming in January 1856.