WHEELING - The Wheeling Suspension Bridge will remain closed for a minimum of three to four weeks, as West Virginia Division of Highways officials learned Monday that repairs to a snapped cable on the 164-year-old span will be more complicated than originally thought.
A crew from HDR Engineering of Pittsburgh joined DOH workers Monday for an up-close inspection of the damage, which occurred at the bridge's northeast end. Following that inspection, DOH District 6 Bridge Engineer Dave Sada said it likely would be three to four weeks - and potentially longer - before the span would re-open.
Workers discovered the problem during a routine inspection of the bridge Saturday, and it has been closed to all traffic - vehicular and pedestrian - since. Sada said it appears rust and corrosion caused the cable to snap.
According to Sada, the cable snapped on the river-facing side of the tower on the bridge's east end, but it actually had been anchored to the other side of the tower after passing beneath two much larger cables. Options include re-attaching the cable to its original anchor point, attempting to anchor it to the river-facing side of the tower or running it over the top of the larger cables instead of underneath them.
The broken cable is not load-bearing but helps to keep the bridge from swaying. That's why it's important to keep pedestrians as well as vehicles from crossing it until repairs are made, Sada said.
"It keeps the deck firm," Sada said. "If you get high winds or something like that, the deck's not going to be as stable."
This unexpected project comes as the DOH is planning $8.2 million in lighting upgrades, cleaning and painting and minor structural repairs to the span. That work, which Sada said shouldn't be affected by the cable problem, is expected to begin later this year, though no firm date has been announced.
Sada said it's too early to speculate how much the immediate repairs will cost.
The last extended closure of the Suspension Bridge was about two years ago, when a motorist severely damaged the sidewalk and a 25-foot section of truss. That closure lasted about five days.