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‘Too Soon to Tell’: Whether Wheeling Suspension Bridge Will Reopen After Repairs Remains To Be Seen

photo by: Photo by Derek Redd

Workers with Advantage Steel & Construction continue work on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge on the Main Street side of the bridge in downtown Wheeling.

WHEELING – The Wheeling Suspension Bridge continues to get some much-needed TLC, but whether that care will lead to it reopening to vehicle traffic remains to be seen.

West Virginia Division of Highways District 6 Engineer Tony Clark said it is still too soon to tell if the bridge will be reopened for drivers to use again.

“At this point, it’s too soon to tell. That decision has not been made that I’m aware of,” Clark said. “I believe the plan was to kind of evaluate it as it’s being opened up to see more of the deficiencies that couldn’t be seen on the surface.”

This week, the contractor on the $17 million job, Advantage Steel & Construction of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, is drilling down to provide more stability for main cables on the north east side of the bridge on Main Street.

“They’re drilling down to install steel piling and rock anchors to shore it up, to provide more anchorage for the suspension cables,” Clark said.

The cables will tie into the piling.

“It’s just one location. It’s not all the main anchorage. It’s just one weak spot,” he added.

Meanwhile, repainting of the 173-year-old bridge continues by subcontractor 446 Painting of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, with many taking notice of the bold red hue on the structure.

“They hope to complete all the painting this year. They’re not quite sure if they will finish it this year or if it will push into the next construction season. It depends on the weather and other factors,” Clark said.

He said the southside of the bridge has been repainted red. The cables still must be repainted white. There is also new signage work to be done along with installation of new lighting.

“The electrical subcontractor is removing the existing lighting from the bridge to do the lighting upgrade,” he said.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was constructed in 1849 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

When the span was open to vehicle traffic it had a two-ton weight limit. In recent years it has closed temporarily because of damage caused by oversized vehicles traveling on it.

Over the years some of the support cables have snapped as well, forcing temporary closures of the bridge. In September 2019, it was closed to all vehicle traffic. Until then, it had been the oldest suspension bridge still in continuous use in the United States.

While the work continues, one walkway on the bridge has remained open to allow pedestrians to walk across the bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Wheeling Island and downtown Wheeling.

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