WHEELING - Traveling public, take note: the West Virginia Division of Highways intends to renovate every bridge and overpass along Interstate 70 through Wheeling over the next eight years as part of an $68.87 million restoration plan.
The highways department also plans to spend an additional $9.9 million during that time frame to renovate and replace several other spans throughout the county, for a grand total of $78.77 million.
That means prepare for an onslaught of orange barrels.
District Six bridge engineer Dave Sada said actual costs and work completion dates compiled by the department's design team are "moving targets" because of the time span involved.
"We only have so much money to work with," Sada said. "If an emergency develops, we may have to take money from one project and move it to another one," meaning work being planned now could be delayed.
He said two cost factors that could negatively impact the projects would be inflation and increased deterioration from now until work begins. The Wheeling Tunnel project, for example, suffered from both factors, as work began four years after completion of the initial design plan, leading to higher bids from contractors and also an increased scope of work due to new problems being discovered.
"Project bids usually go out four or five months in advance and a lot can happen between now and then," he said.
Most spans will undergo total renovation while others may be cleaned and painted, resurfaced, get new expansion joints or, in some cases, be replaced. Renovation may include work on the bridge deck, steel components of the substructure and superstructure and concrete piers.
Sada said the interstate bridges - built in the mid-1960s and carrying a daily traffic count of 29,000 vehicles - are safe but showing their age.
"We inspect them annually to keep an eye on any deterioration," he said.
Possibly the worst stretch of I-70 right now in Ohio County is on the Wheeling Tunnel's east side, where huge potholes in the overpass take their toll on vehicles.
While the work will create some traffic flow interruptions, Sada said the goal is to minimize congestion.
"We have to do the work," he said. "At times that may require rebuilding one-half of a bridge at a time while maintaining traffic flow on the other half. We always have I-470 as a backup but it is unlikely we will ever shut down I-70 entirely."
Projected I-70 bridge and overpass renovation timeline
Projected Cost for I-70 bridges - $68.87 million
Other Ohio County bridges and overpasses timeline
Projected cost for other bridges - $9.9 million
Total projected cost for all bridges - $78.77 million