Wellsburg-to-Brilliant Bridge Work To Begin

WELLSBURG — Gov. Jim Justice will be on hand next week when officials hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a long-anticipated bridge across the Ohio River.

Brooke County commissioners said Tuesday that Justice will be at the ceremony when it kicks off at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday behind the Smith Oil gas station on W.Va. 2. The span will extend from an area a mile south of the city to the intersection of Third and Clever streets in Brilliant.

“There are a lot of people who have worked on that through the years, and we’re very excited,” said commission President Tim Ennis.

He recalled writing to the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd as a fourth-grader in 1968 to request a span between southern Brooke County and the Ohio side of the river.

In May, state highway officials announced that construction of the span, which originally had been scheduled for spring, would be delayed until summer while the contractor awaited approval of environmental permits and acquisition of easements.

It’s not clear how soon physical work on the span will begin.

The Flatiron Corp. of Broomfield, Colo., was chosen as general contractor after submitting the lowest of three bids for the estimated $131 million project and a proposal to complete the bridge in 2021, a year earlier than anticipated. To do that, the company plans to build the span in segments elsewhere, then ship them by barge to the bridge site.

County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said plans for the bridge have drawn positive reactions from businesses considering establishing operations in southern Brooke County.

Local officials have said the span also will provide another artery between West Virginia and Ohio in the event of rock slides that often have closed state W.Va. 2 and Ohio 7 near the southern ends of Brooke and Jefferson counties and boost economic development in those areas.

In 1998, BHJ named a new Ohio River bridge its top transportation priority, citing the advancing ages of the Market Street and Fort Steuben bridges — the latter since demolished. The commission concluded the U.S. Route 22 Veterans Memorial Bridge wouldn’t be adequate to serve projected traffic levels.

The bridge will be a tied arch span, which consists of an overhead arch and deck that resembles a bow being drawn to fire an arrow.

The Fort Henry Bridge in Wheeling and Fort Pitt Bridge in Pittsburgh are examples.

It’s is expected to include three lanes, including a center turn lane, which may be used for through traffic when the bridge is being inspected or repaired, as well as a path for bicyclists. Plans call for a link from the bridge to the nearby Brooke County Pioneer Trail.

Some officials had hoped for a four lane bridge, but past highway officials said the three lane span will accommodate the projected traffic levels.