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West Virginia Division Of Highways Continues To Make Progress on I-70 Bridges Project

File Photo by Scott McCloskey

The landscape of Interstate 70 through Ohio County is undergoing some changes this week, with the exit into downtown Wheeling reopening but parts of I-70 being reduced to one lane.

The West Virginia Division of Highways announced that all 26 bridges in the $215 million bridge replacement and rehabilitation project are either completely or partially open to traffic as of Wednesday. Work on the I-70 Bridges Project, which began in 2019, is expected to be fully complete in late 2022, and includes a total of 26 structures from the Fort Henry Bridge to Elm Grove Exit 5.

As of Wednesday, lane restrictions have been removed near where I-70 merges with I-470 near Elm Grove. Construction Engineer Mike Witherow said lane restrictions on I-70 would be lifted Wednesday, and that traffic patterns would remain mostly constant over the winter months.

“We’re going to maintain our current traffic pattern for the coming months,” Witherow said. “We’re actually removing the lane closure on I-70 East, at exit 5, today. That’ll be back to its normal traffic pattern, which is nice. That was a tight area through there. The traffic pattern we have current will remain for a few months, until we switch to the next phase. We’ll have lane closures periodically throughout the next year, as we finish everything up.”

On Tuesday, the exit from I-70 to Main Street reopened to traffic, having been closed since September for a deck overlay and steel repair project.

The I-70 Bridges Project, funded through the $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity highway construction and maintenance program, entails repairing or replacing bridges, entrance and exit ramps and highway work in and around Wheeling.

Major bridge work undertaken in the project included repairs, a deck overlay and painting of the Fort Henry Bridge; repairs, deck overlay and painting of the Main Street Bridge; completely new decks for the eastbound and westbound East Tunnel Bridge; complete demolition and replacement of the eastbound and westbound Fulton Bridge and deck overlays or replacements on four bridges in the Elm Grove area.

The next phase of the work, Witherow said, will involve deck work on several bridges near Elm Grove and Middle Creek. On the west side of the tunnel, work will require lane closures and changing traffic patterns.

“We have a lot of coatings left to do, some substructure work next year. A lot of that stuff’s going to be going on, along with another bridge, there, near the Oglebay exit that still needs some attention,” he said. “It’ll be ongoing work through the third year of the contract.

“We did get through the major milestones, the closure of the interstate in 2020, eastbound closed through Oglebay this year, and that went well. It was a very aggressive schedule, and the contractor was able to make it happen, put the resources where they were needed, and it all went very well. Some of those bridges west of the tunnel were very challenging work, and we’re getting through the bulk of that. It’s encouraging.”

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