FOLLANSBEE - In 2009, then-West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said improvements to the Market Street Bridge should allow the structure spanning the Ohio River between downtown Steubenville and Follansbee to last until about 2019.
However, officials now believe $17 million worth of renovations should allow the bridge that handles approximately 6,000 vehicles per day to remain open for another 20 years.
"It is a popular bridge that provides great access to motorists," said Brent Walker, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation. "Originally, we were looking at a 10-year bridge. But it has been repaired to the point that it can last another 20 years."
DECADES OF FUTURE — Following approximately $17 million worth of renovations over the past few years, the Market Street Bridge should remain viable for another 20 years, officials believe. — Michael D. McElwain
The bridge renovations were partially funded with $10 million from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The span was closed for parts of 2010 and 2011 while crews repaired its towers, as well as the Ohio approach spans and trusses. They also replaced mobile inspection platforms and lowered its clearance by a foot to prevent overweight vehicles from violating the 5-ton weight limit. Workers painted the structure blue and gold in celebration of the West Virginia University team colors, while they also added 146 lights to the span's cables.
Walker said the West Virginia Division of Highways inspects the bridge annually, while also monitoring it for stress. Walker said early Wednesday, a motorist struck one of the overhead beams on the bridge. Officials completed the minor repairs so the bridge could reopen later in the day.
"As long as it remains structurally viable, it can remain open," he said.
Following the 2012 demolition of the Forth Steuben Bridge, the Market Street Bridge is one of only two remaining passenger vehicle bridges connecting Steubenville to the Weirton/Follansbee area. The Veterans Memorial Bridge - opened in 1990 to replace the Fort Steuben Bridge as the span for U.S. 22 - is the other.
Walker said plans are still in the works for the construction of a new bridge that would span the river between the southern ends of Brooke and Jefferson counties in the vicinity of Wellsburg and Brilliant. Projected costs for the new bridge are estimated to be at least $100 million.
"That is still very much in the works," Walker said of the additional span. "We are just looking for a way to fund it at this point."