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Work continues on bridge contruction

PROGRESS MADE — Abutments for the new Ohio River bridge between Wellsburg and Brilliant are under construction by the Flatiron Corp. of Broomfield, Colo. -- Kim North

WELLSBURG — Construction of a new $131 million bridge to span the Ohio River continues between Wellsburg and Brilliant.

The future 830-foot, tied-arch span bridge is being built by the Flatiron Corp. of Broomfield, Colo., and is expected to be completed sometime in 2021.

Work on the bridge abutments is under way now. In later stages of the project, the bridge’s actual span will be transported by two barges down river about a mile south of Wellsburg and lowered onto its piers with large jacks on the barges from about 80 feet in the air.

With an estimated weight of 4,000 tons, the span is believed to be the heaviest structure to be lifted in such a way in the United States.

Once completed, the bridge will extend 1,600 feet across the river, touching down at the intersection of Third and Cleaver streets in Brilliant, near state Route 7.

The 60-foot deck will consist of four lanes, one each for west- and eastbound traffic; a center turn lane for vehicles turning against the flow of traffic on each end; and a lane for bicyclists.

The lanes could be restriped for four if needed in the future, West Virginia Department of Highways officials have said.

Plans call for the bicyclists to continue down a railed ramp to the Brooke County Pioneer Trail below. A 4,000-foot-long retaining wall will be built between the bridge and the trail.

The bridge’s approach was moved closer to the river to eliminate the need to excavate the hillside along state Route 2 in West Virginia, reducing the project’s cost. Two turn lanes will be added to Route 2 for vehicles entering the bridge.

The bridge is a collaboration between the West Virginia and Ohio departments of transportation, with both drawing on federal highway money to finance it. The states signed an agreement in which West Virginia, which owns the river, will pay 65 percent of the span’s cost, and Ohio will pay 35 percent. The bridge’s cost is about $131 million.

The late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd and former U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller secured $18 million for its planning and initial construction.

When completed, the bridge will reduce a 50-mile gap between Ohio River crossings from Wheeling to Steubenville and will support development in southern Jefferson County as well, DOH officials have said.

The Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission made the bridge a top transportation priority. Two studies commissioned by BHJ noted the advancing age of the Market Street Bridge, which had received $10 million in renovations but is more than 100 years old.

In addition to boosting development, creating another interstate corridor between areas of Route 2 and Route 7, where rock slides are frequent, was given as a motive for the bridge.

Credit for the project’s initiation was extended to local officials and a grassroots citizens group that lobbied local and state officials for the span.

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