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Bridge holds many memories

January 19, 2012
The Herald-Star

A boom and a splash in about a month or so will signal the official end to an important piece of area history.

The demolition of the Fort Steuben Bridge has begun.

The bridge was opened for traffic on Aug. 18, 1928, becoming an important link between Steubenville and Weirton. It was the first Ohio River suspension bridge with a concrete floor.

The bridge continued to provide a means for business and personal travel heading to and from Weirton and Pittsburgh for decades.

The two-lane Fort Steuben Bridge was dwarfed in May 1990 with the opening of the six-lane Veterans Memorial Bridge. The Fort Steuben Bridge continued to be a vital link to businesses in the Half Moon Industrial Park in Weirton.

But time took its tool and the Ohio Department of Transportation decided to stop maintenance on the bridge. It was a death warrant for the structure. Community leaders on both sides of the river worked to save the bridge, but to no avail.

Workers are now on the bridge dismanteling 5-by-20-feet sections, leaving a 300-foot section at the center of the 1,584-foot span in order to maintain its balance.

The 300-foot section, the ends of its trusses and its cables and towers will fall with a single blast.

Pieces of the bridge, some weighing as much as 120,000 pounds, will be lifted from the Ohio River by crane and loaded onto several barges.

The Coast Guard wants the Ohio River cleared of the obstruction within 24 hours.

The Market Street Bridge opened in 1905 and recently underwent $15 million in renovations and repairs. The area was well served by repairing the Market Street Bridge as an important link between Steubenville and Follansbee.

Now efforts are under way to build a new bridge between Brilliant and Wellsburg. How soon that happens all depends on federal and state funding. It could be years or even decades before construction begins, if it happens at all.

West Virginia and Ohio always have been separated by the Ohio River. Crossing that river has been a challenge for generations.

It will be sad to see the Fort Steuben Bridge close. Memories of crossing the bridge in the back of the family car will remain well after the last piece of metal is removed.

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