Bridge awaits impact approval

WEIRTON – Officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation are hopeful they will clear another hurdle in efforts to establish a new bridge over the Ohio River between Brooke and Jefferson counties.

Perry Keller, head of planning and program administration for WVDOT, said the department hopes soon to receive a finding of no significant impact from the Federal Highway Administration.

John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, called the finding “a major step” in the development of the bridge project.

The finding would come following a study done by HDR Engineering of Weirton to determine the proposed bridge’s impact on areas of Brilliant and south of Wellsburg where officials hope to build the proposed bridge.

Plans call for the bridge to extend from state Route 2 about a mile south of Buffalo Creek to the Riddles Run interchange off Ohio Route 7 in Brilliant.

The engineers have suggested establishing a new diamond interchange in Brilliant that would connect the intersection of Third and Cleaver streets with Route 7.

The existing interchange ramps would be removed, and other changes may be made, such as adding turn lanes and traffic signals, to ease the flow of traffic.

Keller said HDR Engineering is in negotiations with WVDOT to design the span and approaches. Keller said the designs should take about 18 months.

The cost to build the bridge has been estimated at $10 million.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; and the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd secured $18 million for planning, right of way acquisition and initial construction, but much of that has been exhausted.

Keller said various funding sources will be explored.

He and Amy Staud and Matt Bunner, both of HDR Engineering, reported on the project’s progress at the WVDOT planning conference held at the Weirton Holiday Inn this week.

Supporters of the proposed span have said it would encourage economic development to southern Brooke and Jefferson counties while providing another route between the states during emergencies, such as rock slides that have blocked sections of state Route 2 in recent years.

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