Passersby on Ohio 7 or the Veterans Memorial Bridge may have noticed sparks flying from the older Fort Steuben Bridge and heavy equipment parked on it.
That's because crews with the Joseph B. Fay Co. of Russellton, Pa., have begun demolishing the 82-year-old span, which was closed in January 2009 by officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation, who said it had become too costly to repair and upgrade to meet current traffic conditions.
On Wednesday, ODOT officials said crews have begun work to dismantle the outer panels of the 1,584-foot long span. They said the $2.3 million demolition project is expected to involve one explosive blast, which is slated to occur in late February or early March.
Photo by Warren Scott
Crews with the Joseph B. Fay Co. of Russellton, Pa., have begun work to dismantle the Fort Steuben Bridge. The 82-year-old span was closed in 2009 by officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation, who said it had become too costly to maintain and upgrade to meet current traffic conditions.
The officials said at least one northbound and one southbound lane of Ohio 7 will remain open throughout the project. They are expected to reveal additional details at a press conference early today.
John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, said following the demolition, Steubenville officials plan to convert part of the span's Ohio pier for use as an observation deck, with a pedestrian bridge leading to it and an adjacent parking area.
The contractor agreed to cut the pier to a specific height and cap it with a concrete base so it can serve as the observation deck.
The span opened in 1928 as a private toll bridge and was the first Ohio River suspension bridge with a concrete floor. It was purchased in 1936 by the State Bridge Commission of Ohio, which removed the toll, though it was reinstated for a time in the 1950s.
The bridge has undergone many renovations, including replacement of the suspension cables in 1941, repairs to a hole in its floor in 1967 and a major rehabilitation in 1972 that included replacing the floor with a concrete-filled steel grid deck.
Other improvements were made in the 1980s and '90s and as late as 2000. But in 2003 ODOT announced plans to close the span, noting the weight limit for the aging span had been lowered in 2004, resulting in less traffic on it.
Prior to that, the span was used by many large trucks traveling to and from industries in Weirton. As part of U.S. 22 in the 1960s, it carried about 20,000 vehicles daily over the Ohio River.
Officials added the width of its deck, at just over 20 feet, didn't meet current safety standards and said the cost to upgrade and maintain it wasn't justified by its use, which was reported as 6,000 vehicles daily then.