Lee Avenue Bridge likely to stay shut

WEIRTON – It’s been 16 months since the Lee Avenue Bridge was ordered closed because of significant structural issues, a situation unlikely to change anytime soon.

“It can’t be reopened, it has to be replaced,” City Manager Valerie Means said. “I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up – we’ve requested funding, but we haven’t heard anything.”

The bridge, which connects Main Street with Weir Avenue and carries traffic over ArcelorMittal’s coil loading area, has been closed since an April 2012 inspection revealed heavy corrosion and structural damage in the bridge’s support beams. Replacing it could cost $1.5 million or more and, due to site limitations, would require special permissions because they’d have to replicate the existing span, Means said.

While city officials have been looking for federal or state funding to assist with the costs, so far none has been forthcoming.

“And with the general fund itself, we don’t have the (money) to do infrastructure projects like that,” Means said.

The situation has been complicated by a seeming increase in train traffic.

“All of a sudden there’s a lot of rail traffic, and a lot of it’s been during business hours,” Mayor George Kondik said. “But we’re looking for a solution. Hopefully, in six months to a year this will be resolved.”

Kondik said the community seems to understand that however inconvenient, the bridge closing is intended to keep them safe.

“It was a hard decision to close it, but for the public safety you just cannot keep something like that open,” Means said.

(Harris can be contacted at lharris@heraldstaronline.com)