December 02, 2022 Memorial Bridge owners, contractors answer questions from public
Originally Published on NOV 30, 2022
PARKERSBURG — Representatives of the companies revamping the Memorial Bridge met Tuesday with members of the community to answer their questions about the bridge and its future.
“I use that bridge quite a bit and was curious about this new system, how it’s going to work,” said Robert Nicolai, who remembers when the toll bridge opened in the 1950s. “It sounds very nice, what they’re doing.”
Parkersburg Bridge Partners held the first of two community open houses Tuesday at the Wood County Society building on Eighth Street, with company officials on hand to discuss the long-term goals for the $50 million rehabilitation of the bridge and the new electronic tolling system that will be implemented when it reopens in the fall of 2023.
Representatives of general contractor Kokosing Construction Company and design engineer of record Modjeski and Masters answered questions about the work being done and even brought some visual aids.
A trio of steel gussett plates, used for lateral bracing beneath the driving surface, sat on a table. One was spotless, while the other two were marred with rust, pitting and cracks. Those came off the actual bridge and are an example of what’s being replaced, said Ben Robinson, project engineer for Kokosing.
“It collects water and salt from the roadway,” he said. “There’s a lot of deterioration like this getting replaced with new steel.”
Crews are going over the bridge piers, chipping out weakened areas, cleaning and replacing rebar as needed, then patching the concrete with new material, said Mike Lewis, project superintendent for Kokosing.
Deteriorated components are not just being replaced with the minimal acceptable material, Robinson said.
“They’re not just replacing it to the bare minimum,” he said. “A lot of this is being replaced in a way that will make it last a lot longer than your typical West Virginia bridge project.”
For example, rebar in the bridge deck could just be covered with epoxy, Robinson said. Instead, Parkersburg Bridge Partners is using galvanized steel so it’s far more resistant to rust, said Frank Artmont, an engineer with Modjeski and Masters. The concrete for the deck is being reinforced with fiber.
“When you get a crack, those fibers kind of keep the crack from opening up,” Artmont said. With the galvanized rebar designed to resist rust if material does get into cracks, “it’s kind of a belt and suspenders approach,” he said.
The familiar toll booths have been removed from the bridge. When it reopens — the target date is Aug. 31, 2023 — tolling will be done electronically.
The company is encouraging motorists to get a transponder for their vehicle, on which the $1-per-crossing toll will be assessed electronically. Account Manager Jonathan Wallace said there will be a $30-a-month option for unlimited crossings.
People who don’t have a transponder will be billed after their license plate is scanned, but Wallace noted there will be an additional administrative fee charged in that manner, since the company must get information from the Department of Motor Vehicles and send out an invoice.
Belpre resident Steve Kempton said he and his wife Karen use an E-ZPass system and wanted to know if it would work with the new system. They were glad to hear it would.
“We do a lot of shopping in Parkersburg,” Kempton said. “We’re usually over here every day.”
Wallace said Parkersburg Bridge Partners wants to be transparent about the changes that are coming so motorists will be prepared when the bridge reopens.
“We want to make the transition as easy as possible,” he said.
The company is in the process of securing local office space and also plans to offer transponder distribution at large local employers, Wallace said. Future informational meetings will be planned as well.
Emily Myers Duke, communications director for Parkersburg Bridge Partners, encouraged people to follow the company on Facebook and visit its website, parkersburgbridgepartners.com, for information about the project.
A second open house is slated for 5-7 p.m. today at Belpre Elementary School.