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I-81 bridge reopened

March 19, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

FALLING WATERS. W.Va. - A bridge over Interstate 81 that was damaged on Thursday afternoon has reopen, West Virginia transportation authorities said Friday.

The bridge carrying Spring Mills Road over I-81 was damaged on Thursday when it was struck by a truck hauling a large scrap bucket.

The driver, John R. Robertson, 61, of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, was charged with failing to follow his permit.

The West Virginia Department of Highways detoured both southbound I-81 lanes immediately following the accident. Engineers spent most of the day on Friday assessing the extent of the damage. They opened the road at about 6 p.m., said Bruce DeHaven, interstate supervisor for the department.

Officials also have opened one lane over the bridge on Spring Mills Road, which is also known as W.Va. 901. DeHaven said engineers have installed traffic lights on both sides of the bridge to control the flow of traffic.

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DeHaven said officials hope to award a contract to repair the bridge within a month.

The bridge, the lowest on I-81 in West Virginia, has been struck several times in recent years. During the last serious accident, in September 1996, transportation officials halted traffic over the bridge for several weeks.

DeHaven said officials determined the bridge can be used because the damage did not occur as high on the bridge as the 1996 accident.

In the aftermath of Thursday's accident, traffic was detoured around the bridge. Traffic was backed up almost to the Maryland border as cars and trucks got off the interstate at the Spring Mills Road exit and then immediately got back on the highway.

The detour was in place again Friday, but DeHaven said motorists appeared better prepared.

"It wasn't as bad as it was yesterday," he said. "I think a few people were aware of it."

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