Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) announced that Advantage Steel & Construction has been awarded a contract worth approximately US$17.9 million to make necessary repairs to the bridge’s superstructure and substructure, replace any damaged suspension cables, renovate the lighting, and clean and paint the span. Two other contractors had also bid for the work. In December 2020, WVDOH had rejected a single bid that was far more than its engineering estimate.
The bridge has been closed to vehicles since September 2019, after drivers repeatedly ignored WVDOH weight restrictions and warnings on the structure. The bridge had been damaged earlier in 2019 after a tour bus that far exceeded the posted weight limit tried to cross, only to get stuck under a barrier.
The hope is that Advantage Steel & Construction’s repairs and renovations will bring the bridge to the point where it can be reopened to motorists. However, the client said that that contractor won’t know until work begins whether the bridge is damaged too badly to reopen it to vehicles.
“This bridge is a landmark piece of our state’s history, and I am fully committed to doing all we can to preserve it for generations to come,” said Justice.
The 308m-spanning structure connects the city of Wheeling with Wheeling Island and opened in 1849. It was originally part of the National Road - the first major improved highway in the United States – which ran from Maryland to Illinois. It was the world’s longest suspension span at the time of its construction.
“This bridge is an icon,” said Deputy Commissioner of Highways Jimmy Wriston. “Being able to preserve that structure is important, not only to the city of Wheeling but to the state as a whole.”