WHEELING - The West Virginia Division of Highways expects work to begin today to replace a steel cable on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge that snapped over the weekend, according to District 6 Bridge Engineer Dave Sada.
The orange barrels and "Bridge Closed" signs that are likely to remain at both ends of the bridge for about a month as a result of that unexpected mishap are a mere preview of things to come; however, Sada said the bridge will close for the better part of a year when an $8.2 million planned upgrade to the historic span gets under way in June 2014.
In addition to minor structural repairs, the suspension bridge is set to receive a thorough cleaning, a coat of fresh paint and lighting upgrades. When the project was first announced in October, officials said it would begin sometime this year, but Sada believes delays in securing the necessary funding caused officials to push back the start date.
Although vehicles will be unable to cross the bridge during the bulk of the work, expected to wrap up in late June 2015, the project may not require the span to shut down completely, according to Sada.
"It may be open for pedestrians, depending on what's being done at the time," he said.
Meanwhile, the DOH plans to bring a manlift to the bridge today to get the more immediate repair under way. The damaged cable is not load-bearing, but it does help keep the bridge from swaying during high winds.
The DOH learned Monday that fixing the cable would be more complicated than originally thought when crews discovered the cable, which broke on the river-facing side of the eastern tower, actually is anchored to the downtown-facing side. After considering a few options, Sada said workers will attempt to anchor the new cable to the same location.
Sada said the damaged cable is believed to be original to the structure, which opened in 1849 but was substantially rebuilt after a devastating wind storm in 1854. He expects the work will take a minimum of three to four weeks.
"If everything falls into place, we might be able to fix it within that time," he said. "In the next week or so, we'll know."