After multiple incidents of continued disregard of weight limit and safety restrictions by motorists on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, officials with the West Virginia DOT (WVDOT) are officially closing the structure to vehicular traffic until further notice.
"The whole reason we have the safety signs is because we wanted everyday motorists to be able to continue using this iconic and important bridge, while also stopping the heavier traffic that has caused structural damage in the past," Secretary of Transportation Byrd White said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the operators of those heavier vehicles continue to ignore our restrictions. While the bridge is absolutely in safe condition now, we need to make sure that we're doing everything we can to prevent future damage."
The historic bridge stretches 1,010 ft across the Ohio River, and remains the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the U.S. that is still in use. It was constructed in 1847 and was part of the first major improved highway in the country built by the federal government.
According to WVDOT, the bridge will remain open to pedestrians and bicyclists. Earlier this year, the bridge had to be closed for six weeks after a tour bus—which far exceeded the posted two-ton weight limit—attempted to cross the bridge, only to get stuck under a barrier.
Upon the bridge being deemed safe and reopening to traffic in August, officials from the state's Division of Highways installed a height barrier with hard restraints to attempt to eliminate such overweight crossings. However, in the time since, operators of vehicles over the weight limit have continued to ignore the restrictions, and have repeatedly driven on the bridge.
The West Virginia Division of Highways is currently working on a long-term rehabilitation plan to sustain the bridge for the future.
SOURCE: West Virginia DOT
IMAGE: Image: Famartin [CCA-4.0] via Wikimedia Commons