Wheeling Suspension Bridge back open as long-term solutions being discussed

WHEELING, W.Va. — After being closed since late June due to damage received from an overweight vehicle, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is back open.

The West Virginia Division of Highways announced Tuesday that the 170-year old bridge was back open for vehicle traffic.

“We are very excited about it,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott told MetroNews. “I know it’s one of those things we’ve been getting a lot of requests from folks of when the bridge will be reopened. It’s nice to have it opened a week or two ahead of the timeframe the DOH predicted.”

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

On June 29, an overweight bus traveled across the national landmark causing damage to several cables.

Since that time and several inspections later, the DOH has lowered the barriers on the bridge to 7 feet, 6 inches which is controlled by hard constraints. The bridge work was finished two weeks ahead of the original schedule.

There remains a 2-ton, 4,000-pound, weight limit and a law to maintain a 50’ minimum distance between vehicles.

“It’s a hard physical barrier,” Elliott said. “Before we had a 12-foot hard physical barrier with a dangling soft barrier which would deter people but would not stop a bus. This barrier would stop a bus.”

Elliott said the lowering of the barriers is just a short term solution for the bridge right now. According to him, the DOH has a complete rehabilitation project for the bridge scheduled for 2021 and that is when the city will look at long-term options.

“Long-term all options remain on the table,” Elliott said. “The number one goal here is keeping that bridge there for generations to come. If we determine that it does need to be a toll or have another physical barricade, those options are all going to be on the table.”

Elliott had previously told MetroNews that a toll could be as low as five cents but the goal would be to keep the bridge, that connects downtown Wheeling and Wheeling Island, off of GPS systems. The mapping systems have been known to take coach buses, like the one in the June incident, on that bridge when traveling to Wheeling Island Hotel Casino and Racetrack.

Weight stations with an arm that goes up if under a certain weight is a possibility, according to Elliott. Another option for Wheeling is to install cameras on the bridge that document a car’s license plate after being weighed.

The driver of the Pennsylvania-based Lenzner Tour and Travel/Coach USA bus was cited in the June 29 incident for being an overweight vehicle and failure to maintain a traffic control device after violating the two-ton weight limit.

Elliott said the sway cables were damaged on the Island side of the bridge in the incident and one or two more overweight buses on the bridge currently could lead to a “catastrophic result.”

The cables damaged by the overweight bus are scheduled to be worked on in the bridge rehab project by the DOH.

The bridge had remained open to pedestrians and bikes.

State Senator William Ihlenfeld (D-Ohio) tweeted about the bridge being done on Tuesday.

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