Two Wheeling Bridge Projects May Overlap

WHEELING – With renovation work on tap for both the Wheeling Suspension Bridge and Interstate 70 in Ohio County next year, highway officials say motorists could see the two major projects overlap.

But even though road crews will be working through the next few weeks to make emergency repairs to the 164-year-old bridge after a snapped stay cable forced it to close March 2, West Virginia Division of Highways spokesman Brent Walker said moving the larger, primarily federally funded project up and getting it all done at once just isn’t an option.

“You have funding issues there,” he said. “That’s why the repairs will be made next year.”

Federal tax dollars make up $6.6 million – about 80 percent – of the estimated $8.25 million project cost, according to the five-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, a 292-page document that outlines planned road work around the Mountain State through 2018. Walker said many of the DOH’s larger projects involve similar funding splits, so the state often is at the mercy of the federal government when it comes to scheduling those projects.

The suspension bridge work, which involves cleaning, painting, lighting upgrades and minor structural repairs to the span, is set to begin in late June 2014 and last a year. The bridge likely will be closed to traffic for most of that time.

Meanwhile, renovation of the westbound I-70 bridge over the Fulton area of Wheeling is also scheduled to begin in late June 2014 and take about two years. That project is the first phase of a $100 million renovation or replacement of all I-70 bridges between Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The project schedules are tentative, but as for whether there will be work on both the interstate and suspension bridge at the same time, Walker said, “There very well could be.”

Walker said the DOH always strives to be sensitive to motorists’ concerns, but projects sometimes overlap because work must get done when the weather is warm. He added despite the inconvenience, area highways ultimately will be safer as a result.

“I think across the country, travelers know (spring and summer is) construction season. … The good news is, work is being done,” said Walker.

Crews at the suspension bridge worked Friday to remove the damaged cable, which snapped near the span’s eastern tower. Walker was unsure how much the emergency repair will cost, but he noted the DOH is using its own workers to complete the job.

Other area projects, including sign work on I-70 and construction on Wetzel County 19/1 and Tyler County 13 are on hold as the DOH focuses on getting the suspension bridge reopened.