Memorial Bridge reopens on schedule

PARKERSBURG – The contractor met its goal, and the Memorial Bridge will reopen today.

“We’re on schedule,” Parkersburg City Engineer Justin Smith said Tuesday. “We’re shooting for 9 a.m.” today to open the bridge.

The bridge closed Aug. 4 for a $182,000 project that included complete replacement of an expansion joint that is expected to address the most complained-about bump on the bridge. Approximately 400 square feet of concrete deck were also replaced.

The original announcement from the city last month said the bridge would be closed for two weeks, which would have kept it out of commission for this weekend’s Parkersburg Homecoming Festival, during which the Belpre Bridge downtown is closed at times.

But city officials said then the plan was for contractor Teays River Construction out of Cross Lanes to complete the work by today and get the bridge opened in plenty of time for Homecoming.

Recent rain didn’t derail those plans.

“The concrete passed the test, and they’re putting the Poly-Carb overlay on right now,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon.

The closure led to some longer commutes, but no significant problems were reported, Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin said.

“We could definitely see an increased volume of traffic in the downtown area in the mornings and afternoons,” he said.

An unexpected effect was that panhandling complaints to the department dropped off during the last week-and-a-half, Martin said. People can often be seen asking for money at the intersection of Emerson and Ohio avenues as cars come off the bridge.

The expansion joint needed replaced as a result of the bridge’s age, Smith said.

“These concrete and steel decks actually grow so they start pushing on each other, just like wisdom teeth,” he said.

The joint had moved down as the decks moved closer together, resulting in a bump that could be jarring, especially for drivers exceeding the bridge’s 35 mph speed limit, Smith said.