The East Huntington Bridge, more than just a typical cable-stayed bridge, marked a significant advancement in its era.
Initial discussions for a bridge linking Huntington’s eastern area to Proctorville began in 1961, with funding secured by 1965. However, the bridge’s location and design remained undecided. In response to a petition from local residents and Democratic election candidates, a hearing was held on September 29, 1970, to determine the bridge’s location and initiate construction. They challenged State Highway Commissioner William S. Ritchie Jr. and Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr., seeking a site selection that reflected Huntington’s majority preference.
The debate over the bridge’s location was extensive. Huntington’s city plan suggested an upriver site, connecting to Interstate 64 and serving as an eastern bypass. An alternative proposal recommended a site near Lewis Hollow, north of Huntington. Both plans envisaged a two-lane bridge, initially estimated to cost $16 million.
Ultimately, in September 1971, the state chose a site near 32nd Street, at the Guyandotte River’s mouth, sparking controversy and political debate. Governor Moore, defending this choice, faced opposition from his gubernatorial rival John D. Rockefeller, who supported the Lewis Hollow site, citing environmental concerns.
The Coast Guard approved the bridge’s construction in July 1974, by which time the cost had risen to $27 million, significantly more than the available budget. Two designs, one in concrete and the other in steel, were proposed. The chosen concrete design utilized a balanced cantilever method for the cable-stayed section, constructed from pre-cast concrete segments weighing 250 tons each, fabricated off-site and assembled using a 600-ton floating crane.
Construction began in 1983, and the bridge opened on August 8, 1985, at a final cost of $38 million.
Cable-stayed suspension bridges, first developed in Europe during the 1950s, were traditionally constructed using steel until the 1970s. The United States saw its first such bridge in 1978, located in Washington state. Arvid Grant & Associates, the firm responsible for designing the East Huntington Bridge, also designed this Washington state bridge and subsequently the Veterans Memorial Bridge further upriver.
The East Huntington Bridge remains a notable landmark in West Virginia, distinguished as the third cable-stayed bridge in the United States and the second such bridge in the world made of concrete. Despite the uncompleted second phase of the project, which would have connected it further south to US Route 60, the bridge continues to be a graceful and significant structure.