STEUBENVILLE - Residents driving to work on Tuesday morning will need to change their route if it involves an area within 1,000 feet of the Fort Steuben Bridge.
Officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation have announced U.S. Route 22, including the Veterans Memorial Bridge, and state Route 7 will be closed for about 20 minutes between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. to accommodate an explosive blast that will bring down the remainder of the Fort Steuben Bridge.
The blast is slated to occur at about 7:15 a.m., and ODOT officials said they expect traffic in the adjacent areas to be reopened soon after it has occurred. But ODOT advises morning commuters to take an alternate route around the area if possible.
FINAL STEPS — Crews prepare for the explosive blast that will bring down the remainder of the Fort Steuben Bridge early Tuesday. The Ohio Department of Transportation has announced traffic on state Route 7 and U.S. Route 22, including the Veterans Memorial Bridge, within 1,000 feet of the span will be closed between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. while the blast is conducted. - Michael D. McElwain
Officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, West Virginia State Police and Steubenville Police will be involved with traffic control.
Traffic on the Ohio River within a 1,000-foot radius of the span also will be closed during the blast.
Becky Giaque, spokeswoman for ODOT, said the early hour was chosen because the river must be reopened to traffic within 24 hours of the blast and the debris must be cleared by Friday under conditions set by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Scheduling the blast early gives crews the most daylight in which to work, she said.
Giaque said a winter date was chosen because there's less activity on the river and at the Steubenville Marina below it.
Clint Filges, project manager with the Joseph B. Fay Co. of Russellton, Pa., the general contractor for the bridge's $2.3 million demolition, said the blast could be delayed if a thunderstorm or heavy fog occurs, but it would be moved to later Tuesday, if possible.
Conducted by Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., the explosion actually will involve about 20 blasts, each lasting only 0.35 seconds and occurring only nine milliseconds apart.
Doug Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc., said the blasts will create less vibration than those used for geological excavation projects but the sound will be heard from a mile or two away.
Loizeaux said as a precaution, surveys of buildings and other structures in the vicinity will be conducted before and after the blast to address any claims of damages caused by the explosion, though none are expected.
ODOT officials have reported the blast will involve about 153 pounds of explosives placed at about 136 locations along the 1,255-foot span.
Tiny charges also have been placed far below the bridge in the river to deter fish from circulating the area during the blast, said ODOT officials.
Dennis Watkins, vice president of the demolitions division of the Joseph B. Fay Co., said the blast will bring down the bridge's truss in 10 sections, the cable in two sections, the Ohio tower in four sections and because it's slated to fall onto the river's Ohio embankment, the Ohio tower in one piece.
The pieces, some weighing as much as 120,000 pounds, will be lifted by crane onto a barge operated by River Salvage Co. of Pittsburgh and transported for sale to nearby Strauss Industries.
The contract for the project calls for the contractor to receive money for the sale of the scrap material.
The Fort Steuben will be the first cable suspension bridge removed in such a manner by the Joseph B. Fay Co., but it's not the largest. Watkins said the Jamestown River Bridge in Rhode Island was probably the largest span, at about 5,000 feet, the company has removed.
The cost for the blast portion of the project is about $50,000. Watkins noted it requires much less time than other efforts taken thus far to remove the span but plays the largest role in the demolition.
Crews have been working since late January to remove 5-by-20-foot sections of the deck and large sections of the truss at each end. And they will continue working into July on barriers and drainage around the former bridge's site, said Watson.
A section of the Ohio tower will be left intact to accommodate plans by city officials to create an observation deck and pedestrian bridge there.
ODOT closed the 83-year-old bridge in January 2009, citing deteriorating conditions and its limited use.
The span opened in 1928 as a private toll bridge and was the first Ohio River suspension bridge to have a concrete floor. A free facility since the 1950s, when the state of Ohio became its permanent owner, it underwent several rehabilitations.
In the 1960s, when the span was part of U.S. Route 22, it was traveled by 20,000 vehicles daily.
In 2007, after safety concerns led to its weight limit being lowered, its traffic volume was reported at 6,000 vehicles per day.
Wasseem Khalifa, district bridge engineer for ODOT, said cracks were found deck during a routine inspection and they indicated the span's joints had begun to fail.
Such deterioration will worsen with time and is the reason ODOT must remove the span rather than allow it to stand unused, he said.