The Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge connected Bellaire, Ohio to Benwood, West Virginia and was a private tolled span over the Ohio River. It closed to traffic in 1991.
The Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge was designed by the J.E. Greiner and Company and was completed on December 22, 1926, connecting Bellaire, Ohio to Benwood, West Virginia.1 5 7
Taking a total of eighteen months to construct,4 the bridge over the Ohio River cost $1.5 million.5 7 Over seven million tons of structural steel were utilized in the construction of the span, and the deck included provisions for streetcars, although they were never put into operation.
During construction, only one death was reported, when Fred Morning fell from a pier on the Benwood, West Virginia side to the ground below on June 12, 1926.1
When the bridge opened, over 7,000 vehicles crossed the span. Due to the large expense undertaken on the construction of the span, a modest toll of a nickel was required. For nearly 45 years, the toll remained only one nickel, however, it was raised in 1971 to a quarter, with a round trip costing 40 cents. The bridge began losing money in 1984, and subsequently, the toll was raised to 50 cents one-way or a dollar for a round trip.1 5 7
During the tenure of the bridge’s history, a wedding took place on the span with the public invited on Independence Day 1927. In addition, portions of the movie, Silence of the Lambs, were filmed on the span and in Bellaire, Ohio.1
The Bellaire Interstate Bridge was closed to traffic on May 1, 1991.1 The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) required the Ohio approach ramp for construction of the Ohio State Route 7 expressway, and ODOT paid $2.1 million in November 1990 to the bridge corporation.1 5 The approach ramp was subsequently demolished, and the bridge and its West Virginia approach ramp were abandoned.
The bridge was later sold in March 1991 to Roger Barack, owner of a construction company in Bellaire. Barack intended to use the bridge for transportation, and later sought financial aid to have the span renovated.5 Discussions ensued about the construction of a new approach to the bridge in Ohio, but no work was ever completed.1 Later, $895,000 was set aside for demolition of the bridge, but additional funding was not secured. In 2002, Benwood, West Virginia officials asked the state of Ohio to demolish the span as debris was littering a roadway below.
In 2005, U.S. Representative Bob Ney obtained a $1.7 million grant to demolish the bridge, however, the money came with controversy. Ney received campaign donations to the tune of $6,000 from 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
“It seems puzzling to me that public dollars would be used to tear down a bridge that is owned by an individual.”
-U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland
Barack sold the Bellaire Bridge in May 2010 to Eric Kelly, operator of Advanced Explosives Demolition Inc., 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 under way, and that Advanced Explosives enlisted Delta’s assistance with the process. The U.S. Coast Guard, however, noted that they had not received formal notification that the bridge was sold to Kelly, or that the bridge would be demolished.5 Eric Washburn, a U.S. Coast Guard official, stated that anyone wanting to tear down a bridge must submit a plan to the Coast Guard, and that the Army Corps of Engineers would be involved in the demolition planning.
In a twist, Lee Chaklos, a partner with Delta Demolition, denied being the owner of the Bellaire Toll Bridge, and noted that Barack was still the owner of the span.5 Two days later, Barack clarified that the span was sold to Kelly.6
The estimated cost of the bridge demolition would be “expensive,” and the piers alone would be $400,000.5
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. Advanced Explosives purchased the bridge, who then sold it to Delta under the name KDC Investments for $25,000. KDC and Delta would utilize Advanced Explosives to blow up the bridge, although the relationship between the companies deteriorated. Delta indicated that it would not use explosives to take down the bridge.
- Bridge type: Cantiliver
- Main span length: Oh. 259 m. (850 ft.), W.Va. 204 m. (670 ft.)
- Total length: 381 m. (1,250 ft.)
- Number of lanes: 2
- Cost: $1.5 million
- “Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge.” Bellaire Public Library. 7 July 2005 Articles.
1a. Martins Ferry Daily Times (Martins Ferry, OH) December 22, 1926, July 1, 1927
1b. Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV), December 1, 1990, March 27, 1991
1c. Wheeling News Register – Ohio Edition, (Wheeling, WV), April 22, 1991
1d. A letter from the Interstate Bridge Company dated March 27, 1948 (Bellaire, OH).
- Eaton, Sabrina. “Bridge removal divides Ohio region.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. 7 July 2005: n. pag. Web. Article.
- “Bellaire Bridge.” Historic Bridges of Michigan and Elsewhere. 13 Feb. 2009: n. pag. Web. Article.
- “Wheeling span to be demolished.” Herald-Dispatch 23 May 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. Article.
- Ziegler, Heather. “Bridge Sale Rumors Denied.” Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 20 May 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. Article.
- Ziegler, Heather. “Bellaire Bridge Is Coming Down.” Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 22 May 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. Article.
- McCloskey, Scott. “Bridge Studied For Demolition.” Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 25 May 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. Article.
- King, Joselyn. “Bridge Debate Heads to Idaho.” Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 9 Sept. 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. Article.