Washington Ave. Bridge a Priority

If you think keeping overweight vehicles off the historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge is difficult, wait until local and state officials try to prohibit them on the Washington Avenue span.

Damage caused by overweight vehicles has prompted the state Division of Highways to erect barriers, with permanent ones to come, at the approaches to the Suspension Bridge. That will not be practical for the Washington Avenue Bridge, which spans Wheeling Creek.

This week, the bridge’s weight limit was being reduced to five tons.

School buses and fire trucks already are being detoured. Travel time for children — and response time for emergency vehicles — is affected.

Keeping other heavy vehicles, such as commercial trucks, off the bridge will be difficult, if not impossible. That may result in additional damage to the already deteriorated structure noted by inspectors.

Clearly, the bridge needs to be repaired or, more likely, replaced. The cost of structural replacement has been estimated at $7.4 million, of which a state program may pay 80%.

Somehow, the project simply must be undertaken. It is a necessity that city officials should view as a top priority.

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