The Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge crosses the Ohio River between Benwood, West Virginia and Bellaire, Ohio. It has been abandoned since 1991.
Designed by the J.E. Greiner & Company, the two-lane crossing opened on December 22, 1926 1 5 7 at a cost of $1.5 million.5 7 Taking eighteen months to erect 4 and requiring seven million tons of structural steel, the roadway deck included provisions for streetcars, although those were never put into operation. Only one death was reported during construction, when Fred Morning fell from a pier on the Benwood, West Virginia side to the ground below on June 12, 1926.1
Over 7,000 automobiles and pedestrians crossed the bridge on its opening day. Due to the large expense undertaken on the construction of the span, a toll of a nickel was required. The toll remained only a nickel for the next 45 years when it was raised in 1971 to a quarter with a round trip costing 40 cents. The bridge began losing money in 1984 which required the toll to raise to 50 cents.1 5 7
On July 4, 1927, a wedding took place on the span with the public invited.1 In addition, portions of the movie, Silence of the Lambs, was filmed on the bridge and in neighboring Bellaire.
In November 1990, the Ohio Department of Transportation paid $2.1 million towards the bridge’s owners for the approach ramp from Bellaire.1 5 ODOT required the removal of the approach for the completion of an expressway.
In March 1991, the bridge was sold to Roger Barack of Bellaire who intended to continue the bridge’s purpose of carrying automobiles and pedestrians over the river.5 On May 1, 1991, ODOT closed the Bellaire approach and later removed the ramp when the expressway was completed. Discussions were held about the construction of a new approach to the bridge in Ohio but no work was ever carried out.1 Later, $895,000 was set aside for the bridge’s demolition but additional funding towards the project was never secured. In 2002, Benwood officials asked the state of Ohio to demolish the span as debris was littering a roadway below.
U.S. Representative Bob Ney obtained a $1.7 million grant to demolish the bridge in 2005. The money came with controversy: Ney received $6,000 in campaign donations Roger Barack and had rented an office for $1,800 that was used by Barack. In addition, Ney nominated Barack’s son for an Air Force Academy Appointment.1
Barack sold the Bellaire Bridge in May 2010 to Eric Kelly, operator of Advanced Explosives Demolition, a company known for its television program “The Imploders” 4 for $1.8 Newton Falls, Ohio based Delta Demolition stated that preparations for demolition were underway and that Advanced Explosives enlisted Delta’s assistance with the process. The U.S. Coast Guard noted that they had not received formal notification that the bridge was sold to Kelly or that the bridge would be demolished.5
Lee Chaklos, a partner with Delta Demolition, denied being the owner of the Bellaire Toll Bridge, noting that Barack was still the owner of the span.5 In September, Advanced Explosives filed a legal complaint in the Kootenai County, Idaho court against Delta Demolition and KDC Investment.8 The complaint regarded the issue on who owns the bridge, and who has the right to demolish it.