The historic Dick Henderson Bridge connecting St. Albans to Nitro is scheduled to be shut down Monday morning.
The process of tearing down the 78 year old bridge will begin shortly after 6 a.m . to make way for a brand new bridge that will be built in it’s place in a record ten months.
This bridge project is unique compared to other bridges constructed in West Virginia for the simple fact that current bridge piers will be used for the new bridge.
Since early spring of last year, crews have been working on widening the current bridge piers so they can be used to hold the new three lane bridge that will be constructed.
Department of Highway Project Supervisor John Buchanan said a lot of work was being done on the piers without people really knowing about it.
“We put a footing casement around both river piers,” said Buchanan. “We are utilizing both river piers.”
By using the existing piers, the DOH saves a tremendous amount of time and money in the bridge project.
Once the bridge is shut down in the morning, crews will get right to work.
“We will start removing the utilities off of it, they have already moved but their lines are still there,” said Buchanan. “After that the contractors will start surveying to drill holes because they will saw the deck slabs and then pick them off one at a time.”
The utility lines crews will be removing belong to AEP, Frontier Communications and Suddenlink. The utility companies previously set up towers and antennas elsewhere along the river to replace the lines going across the bridge.
Once survey crews are complete, crews will bring in two large saws to begin cutting out the old bridge deck.
“They will probably be six, eight foot diameter saws,” said Buchanan. “They have to go through the deck and through the bridge walls on the side.”
Once the sawing is complete, crews will work at removing the bridge deck one slab at a time leaving just the steel superstructure remaining. The superstructure will eventually be imploded into the river so new construction can begin.
Buchanan said the contractor was at one point considering just blowing up the superstructure but later decided that would be too risky and not the best option.
Once completed, the new bridge will feature three 12-foot-wide travel lanes and an early turning lane to allow better traffic control. The bridge will also have 6-foot-wide shoulders and 5-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides.
The new bridge will be a vast improvement from the current bridge that has a two-lane system with nine-foot lanes and a sidewalk between trusses.
Once the bridge closes, traffic running between Nitro and St. Albans will have two options; a 9.5 mile detour to the Interstate 64 bridge at Nitro or a 12 mile detour to the bridge between Dunbar and Spring Lake.
The estimated cost of the project is between $25 million and $28 million. The project is expected to take around ten months to complete.