Market Street Bridge remains closed as W.Va. Division of Highways continues evaluation

The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) is continuing to inspect and evaluate the condition of the Market Street Bridge, which was closed to traffic on Thursday, December 21, 2023.
 
The 1,800-foot bridge, supported by two massive steel cables, was closed after a bridge inspection identified damaged sections in the cable anchorage on the upstream support cable.
 
Each support cable is made up of 14 bundles of steel, with each bundle made up of 107 individual strands of wire, according to Stephen Johnson, P.E., Director of the WVDOH Operations Division and state bridge inspection coordinator.
 
In June 2022, WVDOH bridge inspectors put the bridge on a three-month inspection cycle due to deterioration of the steel support cables within the cable anchorages at the ends of the bridge. At that time, inspectors identified that one of the 14 bundles of wire on the upstream support cable had deteriorated inside the cable anchorage to the point where it was no longer able to do its job.
 
Although the bridge cables have ample capacity to carry the weight of vehicles, deterioration in other parts of the bridge led WVDOH bridge engineers to lower the weight limit on the 118-year-old bridge to three tons in September 2023.
 
“What we’ve been monitoring at three-month intervals is deterioration of the cable anchorages,” Johnson said. WVDOH engineers did not expect deterioration of the cables to accelerate after lowering the weight limit on the bridge.
 
“What was concerning was the acceleration of the deterioration,” Johnson said.
 
Since June 2022, bridge inspectors have identified 10 other strands of wire breaking in other bundles on the bridge.
 
“In the first year of three-month inspections we lost four strands of wire,” Johnson said. “In the last three months we went from four to 10.”
 
The Market Street Bridge was built in 1905, with an expected life of between 50 and 100 years. In 2010, the WVDOH awarded a contract for approximately $14 million to extend the life of the bridge another 10 years; those repairs kept the bridge functional for 13 years.
 
The WVDOH bridge inspection program is one of the most aggressive in the country, going above and beyond federal requirements. Consultants Burgess & Niple conduct annual inspections on the Market Street Bridge, while WVDOH bridge inspectors conduct inspections on the cable anchorages every three months.
 
With the bridge currently closed, WVDOH plans another bridge inspection in January 2024 to determine if the support cables are continuing to deteriorate even with no live load on the bridge.
 
“The results of that inspection and full evaluation of the current inspection results will help determine the future of the bridge,” Johnson said.
 
While the bridge is closed, detour routes are available using US 22, the Veterans Memorial Bridge, to the north, or County Route 2/23, the Wellsburg Bridge, to the south.
 
 The WVDOH will continue to update the public on the status of the bridge.

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