Wellsburg Bridge in place after river float but another year of work remains

WELLSBURG, W.Va. — Called an ‘engineering marvel’ by many who observed the float and lift of the Wellsburg Bridge, there remains plenty of work to be done on the project in order for vehicles to be able to use the bridge over the Ohio River.

Built on the shoreline of the West Virginia side of the river since 2019, the 830-foot main span of the bridge was floated down the Ohio River and lifted onto its pilings on Monday and Tuesday.

Tony Clark, District 6 Engineer with the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) recently discussed with MetroNews what else needs to be done before the scheduled completion in the fall of 2022. The bridge will connect the community of Wellsburg with Brilliant, Ohio.

“It’s similar to work to what I have seen as an engineer but on a much larger scale. As far as the retaining walls, lights going on on the West Virginia side or steel girders for the approach bands for both Ohio and West Virginia,” Clark told MetroNews.

“The project was definitely unique for West Virginia.”

DOH officials said construction crews must still complete a retaining wall and backfill on the West Virginia side of the bridge, finish pier work on the West Virginia side, complete the approach span on the Ohio side of the bridge, and tie both ends of the span into existing roadways.

Clark expects WV Route 2 in that section to be expanded one lane to create a lane to turn on and off the bridge. On the Ohio side, the bridge will tie into Third Street in Brilliant and down onto Ohio Route 7 in an existing interchange.

Concrete for the main span of the bridge also must still be poured, Clark added. He also said there is similar work that needs on the Ohio side.

The project is a collaboration between the DOH and the Ohio Department of Transportation, Clark said, but the contract is handled through the DOH.

Awarded in 2016, the $131 million project is Flatiron Corporation’s first project in the state and West Virginia’s first alternative delivery project. Flatiron decided to build the main span of the bridge on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River and hold the float. Piers were already constructed and the bridge was raised to the necessary height on Tuesday then pushed upstream and lowered onto those piers, MetroNews previously reported.

Clark said the DOH presented Flatiron with a contract that could be completed but the contractors came back with a different idea.

“If the contractor wants to do it a certain way, they do. As far as I know, this one kind of came out of left field. They said ‘hey we are going to build it up here and float it down,'” Clark said.

Clark said he sees many benefits to building offshore if it is economically feasible. He said it is too early to say if it becomes commonplace in the Mountain State.

“Constructing it on the shore has many benefits in being able to access the structure, crew safety, they don’t have to worry about being over the river and someone or something falls in the water,” Clark said.

DOH officials believe the bridge will reduce travel time between the two communities, provide a new river crossing for commerce, and provide another way across the river if work needs to be done on neighboring spans.

Currently, motorists in a passenger vehicle traveling along WV Route 2 or OH Route 7 are able to cross the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia on the Fort Henry Bridge in Wheeling or the Market Street Bridge, north of Follansbee and into Steubenville, Ohio. The distance between those two bridges is roughly 25 miles.

The Wellsburg Bridge idea was pushed for years, according to Clark, and was a dream of former Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti who passed away on March 31.

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