WHEELING, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Highways closed the Wheeling Suspension Bridge indefinitely Wednesday – the fourth such closure in little more than a year – after a Greyhound bus crossed the two-ton weight limit span.
Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball said the incident occurred around 2:15 p.m. DOH officials decided to shut down the bridge to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic while they assess whether any structural damage was done.
“Apparently, a Greyhound bus driver was lost and he got stuck trying to cross the Suspension Bridge,” Kimball said.
Kimball said the bus eventually made it across the bridge, but sustained damage to its roof from striking the overhead signs, suspended by chains, notifying drivers of the span’s 8-foot height limit. A typical Greyhound bus is 13 to 14 feet tall.
The bridge features a posted two-ton weight limit, prohibiting a variety of normal-sized passenger vehicles from crossing it – let alone a large bus. It’s unclear exactly what model of bus crossed the bridge Wednesday, but the four types that make up virtually all of Greyhound’s fleet weigh between 24 and 27 tons.
“We did catch up with the driver and he was cited for driving an overweight vehicle across the bridge,” Kimball said, adding he did not know the driver’s name.
DOH District 6 Manager Gus Suwaid said the bridge could be closed for a few days.
“We’re trying to get the consultant who did the routine inspection of this bridge on an emergency call as soon as possible to assess the condition of the bridge,” he said. “It could be a couple of days before we can get them on board … but we are working very hard to get them.”
Suwaid said the bridge didn’t sustain any visible damage, but noted it takes “more of a keen eye” to notice any possible abnormalities.
For the time being, drivers must use the Interstate 70 Fort Henry Bridge as an alternate route.
The Suspension Bridge has seen plenty in its 167 years, but it’s been a particularly rough past 13 months for the structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The bridge was closed for three days after extreme cold caused a sway cable to snap on Feb. 20, 2015. About two weeks later, an overheight truck became wedged beneath the bridge’s overhead signs, shutting it down for another two days.
And on Oct. 27, a pickup truck slammed into the sidewalk and some wooden beams on the bridge after blowing a tire, but repairs were made quickly and the span reopened after less than 48 hours.
Staff Writer Scott McCloskey contributed to this story.