The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is about to undergo a major repair project worth millions of dollars. On Monday evening, a public informational workshop was held at the Ohio County Public Library to get public opinion on some of the proposed changes.
At 167-years-old, the Suspension Bridge is one of the biggest icons in the Friendly City. Connecting downtown to Wheeling Island, thousands of cars drive over the historic span every day.
The West Virginia Division of Highways is mapping out a project that will cost between $8 and $10 million dollars, repairing parts of the structure and replacing the lighting. The two different concepts were on display for the public to see.
“We want the public, especially the people who live around here, some of them drive on the bridge daily, some of them enjoy walking on the bridge, some of them like to look at it at certain times of the year,” said Dirar Ahmad, with the West Virginia Division of Highways.
Concept 1 will feature traditional lights attached to the bridge railings, with LED tube lighting on the railings, cables and sides of the bridge. In both concepts, the towers will be light with spot lights and flood lights to highlight the distinctive features. Concept 2 will use a post-mounted acorn-style light attached to bridge railings. The railings, cables and sides of the bridge in Concept 2 will be lit using medallion or point lighting.
In both projects, the structural repairs will remain the same.
City Councilman Don Atkinson said he likes both concepts. “I mean you know there are some people here who know the history, and they don’t want to ruin the history. Yet there’s people here who want to make it look kind of modern. It’s got to be safe, first of all,” he said.
The total project could take anywhere between one to three years, but the Division of Highways says they want to get contract bids as soon as possible.
“This rehab and all the work we’re going to do, it will ensure that this jewel, or this wonderful resource is here to stay for many, many generations, because we are really privileged and lucky to have a resource like this,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said even after the repairs are made to the bridge, the two ton weight limit will still be in effect.
Right now, the public comment period is part of the Nation Environmental Protection Act, which is to engage public, state, and federal agencies to ensure historic, cultural and environmental resources are evaluated and mitigated.
The Division of Highways said they take every comment by the public seriously. “Every comment you make we take it to heart. Every comment, every input will be evaluated, this is a promise,” Ahmad said. “You know, we take this seriously and we always like to engage everybody because we think a well-informed, engaged public will keep us on our toes and then we’ll do a good job for them. Because after all, we work for the public.”
Comments will be accepted through May 11. They can be mailed to the Division of Highways, or submitted on their website.