W.Va., Pa. are on top ten bad bridge list

May 09, 1997


Staff Writer

West Virginia and Pennsylvania are among the top 10 states in the country with the worst bridges, according to The Road Information Program, a nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C.

Some serious bridge work needs to be done in the Tri-State area, including work on two major spans over the Potomac River that alone will cost $22 million, highway officials say.

Even though a large number of bridges are deemed deficient, that doesn't mean they are unsafe for motorists, officials say.

In many cases, a bridge might be structurally sound while the concrete decking under the pavement is worn, said Gary Klavuhn, a bridge engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways regional office in Burlington, W.Va.


"From a safety standpoint, it's not going to fall down," he said.

That's the case on the Potomac River bridge between Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown, W.Va., built in 1939.

Repair work could begin as soon as this fall on the $6 million project, the cost of which is being shared by the two states, Klavuhn said.

Similarly, the U.S. 340 bridge that crosses both the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., needs a new deck to replace one that's 50 years old, he said.

At a cost of $16 million, that bridge will be replaced by a wider two-lane bridge in keeping with the historic nature of the area, he said. Work will begin in 1998.

All bridges more than 20 feet long must be inspected every two years under federal law.

In West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, about 12 percent of 180 bridges are posted for weight restrictions, Klavuhn said.

Transportation officials said they try to balance replacement work with routine maintenance like painting.

"It is an expensive proposition to maintain bridges. Bridges are a big-ticket item," said Washington County Engineer Terry McGee.

The numbers collected by The Road Information Project can be misleading, McGee said.

"That's a real good political scare tactic to try to get more money for bridge projects," McGee said. "Yes, we do have a lot of bridges that need attention. (But) we're in pretty decent shape."

Many Washington County bridges are ruled deficient because they can handle only one lane of traffic and weren't built to accommodate heavy vehicles,

But those are the kinds of bridges that officials don't necessarily want to replace. Most are on lightly traveled roads, he said.

After last June's floods, engineers re-inspected bridges in the Tri-State area.

Washington County discovered that flooding damaged three bridges that were in a deteriorating condition. The $250,000 in repairs are being done sooner than expected, he said.

Weller Road bridge is nearly finished, but Welty Church Bridge remains closed.

Deneen Road bridge west of Hancock had been closed but people in the area are using it anyway, McGee said.

"They just took out the little barricades and threw them out of the way," he said.

The dirt road mainly is used by hunting and fishing enthusiasts, said Lee Hixon, a retired public works employee who has lived on Deneen Road all his life.

In Franklin County, Pa., one bridge on Loudon Road is still out from last June's flooding, said Larry McGee, the county maintenance manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The St. Thomas area road will be closed until at least next summer, he said.

Other bridges where work is being or will be done:

  • The Interstate 70 bridge over Md. 66 in Washington County is getting a new deck.
  • Work on the Interstate 70 bridge over Hopewell Road in Washington County will be advertised for bids in October.
The Herald-Mail Articles