WHEELING – With an officially awarded bid to repair and rehabilitate the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, what’s next for the historic structure?
While preliminary work on the span is expected to begin in the next few weeks, major construction work is expected to take place during the 2022 construction season, said Tony Clark, engineer with the West Virginia Highways Division. The end of the work is tentatively scheduled for June 30, 2023.
Just a few weeks ago, Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Division of Highways announced that the bridge project had been awarded to Advantage Steel & Construction, LLC for $ 17,907,147. The works include repairs to the bridge superstructure and substructure, replacement of damaged suspension cables, renovation of lighting and cleaning and painting of the span.
Preliminary work is expected to take place soon, Clark said, as the contractor needs time to get the material. Procurement is the biggest problem in the industry, as it takes 30 to 40 weeks to obtain materials, especially cables.
âIf they (the contractor) haven’t already done it, they will be doing it very soon,â Clark said. âThe first thing they do is get out on the bridge and get measurements for the cables they need.
âThis is their first plan of action is to go out there and get all these measurements and all the materials ordered because there is such a lag,â he added.
The biggest move residents are expected to see this year, Clark said, is the contractor who places lightweight platforms under the entire bridge.
âIt looks like the heavy lifting will take place the following calendar year starting in the spring, depending on the winter we have,â Clark explained.
He said the contractor expects to do much of the heavier work, such as replacing cables during the summer and fall of 2022, once they start receiving the materials. they ordered. Clark said the schedule for the heaviest jobs can change depending on when they actually receive the materials.
âThere’s a good chance they’ll come out next year and do the heavy lifting and maybe finish some things the next spring,â Clark said. “However, if they have material issuesâ¦ it could be past the completion date, it just depends on the markets and when they are able to get the materials they need.”
DOH officials will not know if the structure will be able to reopen to vehicular traffic until the contractor actually begins work on the anchor vaults where the cables are secured under the ground at both ends of the structure, according to Clark.
In December 2020, WVDOH rejected a single bid on the project which was far more than the DOH technical estimate. The bridge has been closed to vehicles since fall 2019 after drivers repeatedly ignored weight restrictions and DOH warnings on the structure. A Coach USA Lenzer bus exceeding the bridge’s two-ton weight limit crossed a 1,300-foot span on June 29, 2019, causing structural damage. It was reopened and closed several times before being closed indefinitely to motor traffic in September 2019.
The bridge was opened in 1849. It was originally part of the National Highway, the first improved highway in the United States that ran from Maryland to Illinois. In 1980, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.