by KATE SHUNNEY
The West Virginia Division of Highways inspects 57 bridges in Morgan County for safety and stability. Of those, six are currently listed on a state Category 6 Major Bridge Replacement list, according to DOH bridge officials.
Sarah Kessel, bridge design official with DOH’s District 5, said “Category 6 Major” is a classification for bridges on secondary, or county, routes that are over 100 feet long.
The six bridges on the state list are the Rock Ford Bridge, Pallet Factory Bridge, Smith Crossroads bridge, Eckard Road Bridge, the Sleepy Creek Arch and the New Hope Bridge.
Kessel said state DOH officials can ask for recommendations for bridge replacements by category, including those on the “Category 6 Major” list.
“The selection is based on statewide priorities of condition level,” said Kessel.
Until the aging or damaged bridges can be replaced, they continue to be inspected on a 12-month cycle, she said. That includes a visual inspection, and hands-on evaluation of surfaces and foundations.
The New Hope Bridge on Mountain Run Road is one of those six bridges being watched by highway officials. Kessel said the structure, which bears a plaque dating the bridge to 1916, is third on the list of priority bridges. It was inspected in mid-July, and its condition was considered poor at the time, she said.
Patricia Kramer lives in a subdivision of 45 people nearby and uses the bridge daily. She’s worried the bridge can’t withstand the heavy traffic it gets, especially from larger vehicles.
“The scary part is in the last six months we’ve had three fires out here and all these big trucks had to use the bridge,” she said.
Kramer is also worried about the school buses that cross the bridge each day, and the kids who fish under it during the summer.
During the last week or two, traffic has gotten heavier from dump trucks and logging trucks working in the area, said Kramer.
“I don’t think it’s a really safe bridge,” she said.
Just last year, the state replaced a century-old one-lane steel bridge on Highland Ridge Road. Kramer said she thinks the New Hope bridge is in worse shape than the steel bridge that was replaced.
State estimates put the cost of a new New Hope Bridge at $3 million.
Trucks bash River Road bridge
The Sleepy Creek Arch bridge on River Road has been on the list for replacement for years, and recently DOH officials put out a public notice seeking bids from contractors to build a new structure in its place.
The Sleepy Creek Arch, a 1923, 103-ft. two-span concrete bridge has been heavily damaged in recent years by tractor-trailers.
Signs tell truck drivers that River Road is not suitable for large vehicles, but drivers are often led by GPS down River Road as a shortcut from Martinsburg Road to Hancock as a way to I-70 and I-68.
Another truck got stuck on the one-lane bridge on
Wednesday, February 28. The approach to the bridge is angled, making it hard for trucks to make the turn from River Road onto the bridge.
The replacement bridge will be two lanes wide and located slightly downstream, DOH officials have said. The project is expected to cost more than $3 million. Daniel Watts, Assistant District Engineer, said construction will begin once a contractor is chosen and submits bond and insurance information for the state. Bids for the new bridge must come in by March 13. Watts said construction could begin in mid to late April. The completion date for the project is October 19 of this year.