West Virginia Press Association
CHESTER, W.Va. — Contractors Modjeski & Masters are designing plans for permanent repairs to the Jennings Randolph Bridge in Chester, as West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) bridge engineers prepare to reopen the span.
The bridge, which carries US 33 across the Ohio River between Chester, West Virginia, and East Liverpool, Ohio, was closed on Monday, December 11, 2023, after a federally mandated inspection discovered cracking in two welds on the steel bridge structure. The cracks were not visible to the naked eye, but the WVDOH, in an abundance of caution, decided to close the bridge to come up with a repair plan.
The two cracks were arrested using dogbone repairs performed by WVDOH bridge repair crews from Central Forces, or CenForce. In a dogbone repair, two holes are drilled parallel to one another below and above the crack, then the holes are connected with a horizontal cut through the steel. The horizontal cut stops the crack from getting any bigger.
At the same time, Modjeski & Masters conducted additional inspections on the bridge to look for additional defects, while WVDOH bridge engineers continued evaluating the structure and planning for future repairs.
Crews from CenForce cut access holes into the steel bridge beams to allow contractors inside to inspect the welds from the inside out. WVDOH bridge engineers have been in constant communication with inspectors and contractors to determine the the best and fastest way to repair the bridge and reopen it to traffic.
The Jennings Randolph Bridge was built in 1977 using T-1 steel. At the time, welded T-1 steel was common in bridge construction, but it was later discovered that cracks could develop in the welds joining the beams. Cracks in T-1 steel welds led to the closure of the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2011, and the Interstate 40 Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis in 2021.
Welding codes were amended in the 1990s, and all T-1 steel was required to pass inspection before leaving the factory.
Recently, the federal government required specialized testing on all bridges made with T-1 steel. Special testing on bridges made with T-1 steel has since been conducted on bridges all over the United States.
It was during one of those tests that a few cracks were identified in welds on the Jennings Randolph Bridge. Because the cracks could cause safety issues in the future, the WVDOH shut the bridge down to repair the cracks.
Modjeski & Masters completed their final inspection, completing the specialized testing, on Friday, December 22, 2023.
Modjeski & Masters identified 18 additional internal defects on welds on the bridge. Seven of those will be arrested with dogbone repairs, while the other 11 will be repaired by drilling out the bad portions of the welds.
The WVDOH has called in contractors Triton Construction Inc. to complete repairs on the bridge. Triton is currently gathering materials and equipment to start the job.
Once those permanent repairs are made the bridge will reopen to traffic.