The condition of the roads and highways have had Ohio Valley drivers buzzing for months.
As the conditions of bridges continue to deteriorate, the West Virginia Division of Highways is getting ready to roll out another plan for its I-70 project.
The project was part of Governor Jim Justice’s Roads to Prosperity bond issue,and was originally bid last year. Those bids came in way over budget, so the DOH is back in the design phase.
The DOH invited anyone with questions to a public meeting at Independence Hall on Wednesday night, to hopefully ease their concerns.
The biggest question 7News heard, when will the work begin?
“I would rather do it and run across a bridge that is safe, than a bridge that is unsafe,” said Wheeling resident John Bishop.
The DOH asks for the public’s patience because this project is far more than patching potholes. It’s the rehabilitation or replacement of 26 bridges along I-70, so it’s going to take some time.
“Replacing the Fulton bridge in entirety. Cleaning, painting a lot of the structures that people see that are rusted and deteriorating,” explained Joe Juszczak, DOH District 6 Construction Engineer. “That will be cleaning and painting and replacing some of the decks, overlaying some of the decks and making steel repairs over the beams and bearings.”
Bids for the $180 million project originally came in about $100 million over budget. The Department of Transportation rejected those bids and now the DOH is back to the design phase.
Previously the project was set out as a design, build project. This time officials set it out as a design, bid build project to contain costs.
“We as a Department of Highways are developing those set of plans,” Juszczak explained. “And by doing that, we are able to take some of the risk off of the contractor. We control the scope of the work.”
The scope of the project remains mostly the same, with one change to the paving aspect.
“Some of the pavement we’re not gonna be doing full pavement reclamation,” Juszczak said.
So when will the project start?
The DOH said it intends to be able to ask for bids in June and award one of the bids in August, meaning people would hopefully see work later this year.
“When we talk about attractiveness to our community, bringing new things, new business, new residents to our community, I think that does play a huge role,” said Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger. “I’m glad to see that we’re finally putting some investment into some infrastructure here.”
Chief Schwertfeger also said he looks forward to more meetings with the DOH planning construction.
“We’ll have to plan emergency response routes, obviously the detours, determine what other impacts this project may bring,” he continued.
Others are worried about traffic delays, and came to the meeting to get answers.
“I have kids that drive, so that’s my concern too,” Bishop said. “I have friends that have kids that drive. I have a kid that goes to West Liberty. The back roads as they’re gonna be putting more traffic onto Route 40. That’s my concern there.”
Bishop also hopes the work doesn’t deter visitors from Wheeling.
“Whether we have wrestling going on or basketball tournaments or the parade coming in November, how are we gonna accommodate people coming int?” he continued. “Festival of lights, we have a lot of stuff going on around this town!”
Since work is still months away, others wanted to know what the DOH will do in the mean time.
Officials said they they haven’t stopped normal maintenance and inspections.
“If there’s something that is seen during those inspections that may have been missed during a prior inspection that needs attention immediately, we are addressing those issues,” Juszczak said. “We would not be leaving something open that was in an unsafe condition.”
According to the DOH’s timeline, the project will be complete in the summer of 2022.
Westbound work will start first.
“We will have in the plans to do our Westbound work first, which will start with the Fulton Bridge area,” Juszczak explained. “That’s one of the first areas of work that people will probably see. Once we get the Westbound completed, then we will jump to the Eastbound.”
The list of bridges included in the project from the DOH include:
- The ODOT Bridge BEL -070-26.84
- Back Channel Bridge
- Fort Henry Bridge
- Main Street Bridge
- Market Street Ramp A
- Market Street Overpass: Ramp E, Ramp G, Ramp J, Ramp K
- 1st Bridge East of Tunnel
- Fulton Bridge
- Elby’s Bridge
- Mt. DeChantal Bridge
- Greenwood Cemetery Bridge
- National Road Overpass
- Elm Grove Interchange
- Middle Creek
If you weren’t able to give your public comment at Wednesday’s meeting, the DOH still has a way you can voice your concerns.
You’ll find that information as well as more detailed plans for the I-70 project by clicking here.