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ODOT officials discuss bridge demolition

January 25, 2012
The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation have shared details of the demolition of the Fort Steuben Bridge as crews began removing a section of its deck.

The $2.3 million project will involve the removal of the span in segments, with an explosive blast to be used in late February or early March to remove the last of it, said Wasseem Khalifa, district bridge engineer for ODOT.

Khalifa said crews with the Jopseh B. Fay Co. of Russellton, Pa., have begun cutting into the span's deck and will remove it in 5 foot by 20 foot sections and will leave a 300 foot section at the center of 1,584 foot span in order to maintain its balance.

Article Photos

Warren Scott
DECK?REMOVAL — Crews with the Joseph B. Fay Co. of Russellton, Pa. have removed a large portion of the deck of the Fort Steuben Bridge. The crews have been removing the deck in 5 foot by 20 foot sections and are slated to remove the span’s trusses, cables and towers with an explosive blast in late February or early March. Northbound traffic on Ohio Route 7 have been reduced to one lane and redirected onto the old bridge ramps for about a month to accommodate the $2.3 million project.

That section, the ends of its trusses and its cables and towers will fall with a single blast in a procedure expected to occur in 15 minutes, he said.

Except during that time, officials plan to maintain at least one lane of north- and southbound traffic during the project.

Northbound traffic on Ohio Route 7 has been reduced to one lane and redirected onto the old bridge ramps to accommodate the work.

ODOT officials haven't determined a specific date and time for the blast though Nick Susich, an ODOT area construction engineer overseeing the project, said it's likely to occur about 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.

All but one of the bridge's piers will be removed also. The remaining pier will be cut by the contractor to serve as an observation deck for which Steubenville officials plan to build a pedestrian bridge.

Susich said 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 operated by the River Salvage Co. of Pittsburgh, a subcontractor for the project.

Susich said the contractor will own scrap metal from the bridge through a provision in its contract for the project.

"The Coast Guard requires that everything must be pulled out of the river within 24 hours," said Khalifa.

He added the demolition has been planned to occur before April, when traffic on the river is heavier and use of the Steubenville Marina below increases.

The Coast Guard's approval of the timeline was needed because the river will be closed to traffic for hundreds of feet within the span during the blast.

Khalifa said prior to the blast, tiny explosive charges will be set in the Ohio River to deter fish from circulating near the span.

Becky Giauque, public information officer for ODOT, said the project required the approval of several federal and state agencies and when that didn't occur before April last year, it was postponed.

In 2003 ODOT announced plans to close the span, noting the weight limit for the aging span had been lowered in 2004, resulting in less traffic on it.

Prior to that, the span was used by many large trucks traveling to and from industries in Weirton. In the 1960s, when the span was part of U.S. Route 22, it was traveled by 20,000 vehicles daily.

In 2007, its traffic volume was reported at 6,000 vehicles per day.

Khalifa said the deck, at just over 20 feet, didn't meet current safety standards and there was no practical way of widening it.

He added cracks in the deck found during a routine inspection indicated the span's joints had begun to fail. Such deterioration will worsen with time and is the reason ODOT must remove the span rather than allow it to stand unused, he said.

Susich said cold weather won't have as much impact on the demolition as it does for other highway projects. But he said work could be halted if a safety hazard is created by slick surfaces.

He said it's the first Ohio project for the Joseph B. Fay Co. but the company has been involved in many bridge demolitions in Pennsylvania and in removing the Bridgeport Bridge to Wheeling Island last fall.

(Scott can be contacted at

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