WV Press InSight Videos

Decrepit Wheeling bridge closed to all users

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register file photo The West Virginia Division of Highways will close the Aetnaville Bridge between Wheeling Island and Bridgeport this morning after an inspection report revealed severe deterioration.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register file photo
The West Virginia Division of Highways will close the Aetnaville Bridge between Wheeling Island and Bridgeport this morning after an inspection report revealed severe deterioration.

WHEELING, W.Va. — An engineer’s report on the condition of the Aetnaville Bridge so alarmed West Virginia Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox that he immediately ordered the span closed, according to Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie.

The 125-year-old bridge – which connects Wheeling Island with South Zane Highway off of Ohio 7 – has been closed to vehicle traffic since 1988, but it has remained well-used by bicyclists and pedestrians. A news release from the West Virginia Division of Highways states the structure will close to all traffic at 7 a.m. today.

The DOH has no current plans to make any repairs to the bridge, according to the release.

McKenzie, who was in Charleston with City Manager Robert Herron meeting with state officials, said he spoke with Mattox Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the transportation secretary received the preliminary inspection report. It showed such severe deterioration, according to McKenzie, that Mattox was concerned extreme cold temperatures could put the span at risk of falling under its own weight at any time.

“He is very concerned about the integrity of the bridge, and he would not want anyone on it,” he said of Mattox.

The inspection report included multiple photos, and McKenzie said the images weren’t pretty, even to a non-engineer’s eye.

“Clearly, all of the underpinnings of the bridge are not only rusted, but rusted all the way through,” he said.

Although DOH officials couldn’t be reached Tuesday for additional comment, McKenzie said he believes the state’s plan is to move forward with demolition of the Aetnaville Bridge. He said a new pedestrian bridge in its place may be a better option, although he acknowledged the state likely doesn’t have funding available for such a project.

The Aetnaville Bridge was completed in 1891, and is believed to be the last of its kind still standing. But many of those who have urged preservation of the structure say the span’s historical value is only part of its importance.

Some residents who don’t own vehicles rely on the structure to shop and get to and from work, and the Ohio Valley Trail Partners group has gotten involved because the bridge represents an important connection in an effort to create an unbroken system of bike trails from Belmont County to Washington, D.C. Others have said removal of the span would make it more difficult to evacuate Wheeling Island in the event of an emergency, such as a major flood.

An online petition started more than a year ago by Wheeling Island resident Karen Corona-Merritt urging the DOH to rehabilitate the bridge had received 2,255 signatures as of late Tuesday.

To read more from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, subscribe here. 

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter