STEUBENVILLE - Since a new Ohio River bridge between Jefferson and Brooke counties was proposed, cost has been cited as one barrier to building it.
But officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation have found a solution to the problem they shared with members of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Mike Paprocki, transportation study director for BHJ, said WVDOT plans to sell bonds for the project, using as collateral a portion of federal funds allocated to the state for transportation projects.
Perry Keller, head of programming and planning administration for WVDOT, said plans call for the department to sell bonds in two rounds, the first in 2015, to support a large portion of the estimated $125 million cost for the bridge.
Paprocki said there is some risk involved because federal funding for transportation could change in the future.
Currently about $400 million of West Virginia's $1.2 billion transportation budget comes from the federal government.
Keller said state highway officials aren't concerned about having enough federal funds to pay off the bonds but acknowledged the move will affect the amount of money left for other transportation projects.
At Keller's request, the planning commission passed a resolution in support.
BHJ Executive Director John Brown said the move demonstrates WVDOT's support for the bridge, which he said will present opportunities for economic growth and improve safety, the flow of traffic and quality of life for residents by providing another point of access between the two states.
"It's a major milestone for the project. Because it's a very expensive project, many have doubted it will occur," he said.
But WVDOT's most recent effort demonstrates "an essential piece of infrastructure for the Ohio Valley is going to be built," he said.
Brown said an environmental assessment is under way for the span, which would link the southern ends of Jefferson and Brooke counties.
WVDOT officials accepted comment in August on a proposal to build the bridge from an area of state Route 2 south of Wellsburg to Third and Cleaver streets in Brilliant. Plans call for a new interchange to be built in the Riddles Run area south of Brilliant to take drivers to state Route 7.
Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne asked if West Virginia and Ohio will be contributing to the project.
Keller said officials from both states have been involved in the proposal's development, contributing to the costs for studies presenting the need for the span and best locations.
But he said the amount of funding for construction to be provided by each hasn't been determined yet.
Paprocki and others noted West Virginia assumed a majority of the cost for previous Ohio River bridges because the river is part of that state.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)