Major moving day anticipated
WELLSBURG — Crews with the Flatiron Corp., officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation and others are preparing for a moving day to overshadow all moving days.
That’s because it will involve transporting the 830-foot-long main span of the new Ohio River Bridge about a mile down the river and lifting the more than 4,000-ton segment into the air and onto its piers.
State highway officials said four barges carrying large hydraulic jacks to be used for the move are bound for the temporary work yard just south of Wellsburg where the main span was assembled.
Plans call for the barges to leave the site around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and proceed just south of the two innermost river piers constructed for the bridge.
There the barges will make a 90 degree turn and position the main span so it can be anchored to the piers with heavy cables and other devices.
The next phase is slated to begin about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, when the jacks will be used to raise the span 80 feet into the air and onto the piers.
Both phases are expected to occur over several hours.
Mike Witherow, district construction engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways, said earlier state officials have arranged for the U.S. Coast Guard to close that area of the river to traffic during the operations.
Witherow confirmed about a mile of state Route 2 along the site will be reduced to one lane of traffic, with flaggers directing north- and southbound traffic through it.
He said it would be natural for passing motorists to be distracted by the sight of the span, so the lane reduction is intended to eliminate the risk of drivers veering across the center line while trying to get a closer look.
“There was certainly some concern about people gawking and the potential for head-on collisions,” Witherow said.
Both phases are contingent upon good weather and have been rescheduled once for that reason.
The work is part of a $131 million project undertaken by the Flatiron Corp. of Broomfield, Colo.
Once the main span is in place, crews will set about building the span’s 60-foot-wide deck as well as approaches from West Virginia Route 2 and the intersection of Third and Clever streets in Brilliant, where vehicles may access Ohio Route 7.
The deck will include one lane each for west- and eastbound traffic and a lane for bicyclists leading to the Brooke County Pioneer Trail below.
Working with engineers with RS&H of Toledo, Ohio, and COWI of New York, Flatiron — the contractor for the project — produced a tied arch design for the bridge.
Such bridges have been called bowstring spans because they consist of an overhead arch and deck that resembles a bow being drawn to fire an arrow.
Crews with Flatiron also are building a half-mile long retaining wall south of the future bridge to support the hillside below Route 2 and allow the highway to be widened west.
The work involves drilling long steel support beams, called pilings, into the hillside and adding wide steel panels between them.
Studies commissioned by the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission cited the advancing age of the Market Street Bridge and Fort Steuben Bridge, the latter since demolished, and weight restrictions on the former bridge as the need for a new Ohio River crossing to support interstate traffic between Jefferson and Brooke counties.
Local officials and other community members overseeing the studies also suggested it will boost economic development at the two counties’ ends while providing another transportation artery in the event state Routes 2 or 7 are blocked by rock slides, a recurring problem in those two areas.