The Blennerhassett Bridge carries US Route 50 (Corridor D) across the Ohio River between Belpre, Ohio to Parkersburg, West Virginia. It is distinctive for its tied-arch design and for its graceful crossing over Blennerhassett Island.
Planning for a high-speed crossing of the Ohio River at Parkersburg began with the formation of Appalachian Corridor D, one of the original 23 Appalachian Development Highway System Routes in 1965. 1 6 Corridor D, generally following US Route 50, was planned to connect Cincinnati, Ohio to Clarksburg, West Virginia. The segment of Corridor D between Interstate 77 in Parkersburg and Interstate 79 in Clarksburg was completed between 1967 and 1978. 9 A ten-mile bypass of Parkersburg, from Interstate 77 west to the Ohio state line, remained unfinished due to historic, environmental, and funding issues.
Most of these issues revolved around the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park whose focus is a historic mansion built by Harmon Blennerhassett and visited several times by Aaron Burr. 9 The mansion was burned by the Virginia militia after the collapse of Burr’s conspiracy.
The initial Environmental Impact Study (EIS) stated that no piers could touch the Blennerhassett Island to minimize the impact on wetlands, river mussels, and migratory birds. 9 At a minimum, a new crossing of the river would need to include a main span of at least 4,000 feet and span both channels of the Ohio River and Blennerhassett Island. It would also need to incorporate a low profile so that the bridge would be difficult to see from the mansion approximately 1.5 miles upstream. In 1991, West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd obtained funding for preliminary work on the Parkersburg bypass which included the Ohio River crossing. 1 The Federal Highway Administration approved a Record of Decision in 1999, allowing the design for a river crossing to proceed.
Michael Baker Jr., Inc. was selected as the primary architect of the Ohio River bridge who then hired the E.L. Robinson Engineering Company to assist in designing the bridge and to survey the area around Blennerhassett Island. 2 5
Four designs were considered, which included a suspension bridge and a tied-arch with inclined cable-stays. 7 The suspension bridge alternative was projected to cost $70 million to $140 million, 9 while the tied-arch bridge option had an estimated price of $120 million. 5 The tied-arch was also projected to take one year less than a suspension bridge to build. 7 As it was the most economical, least intrusive to the historic Blennerhassett Island, and faster to build, 1 3 the tied-arch design was selected. 5
Construction began on the Parkersburg bypass in 2000, and on March 30, 2005, the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) awarded a $135 million construction contract to the Walsh Construction Company of Chicago for the Blennerhassett Island Bridge. 1 The contract was the largest single contract in WVDOH’s history. 4 9
The project, which called for the erection of more than 14,705 tons of structural steel supplied by PDM Bridge, 8 was divided into three segments: 4 9
- A 2,629-foot continuous girder bridge of eight 200-foot to 400-foot spans with 16.3 million pounds of plate girder steel over WV Route 892 and the back channel of the Ohio River
- A 494-foot continuous bridge of three 140-foot to 179-foot spans with 1.6 million pounds of plate girder steel over OH Route 618
- An 800-foot tied-arch bridge with over 11.5 million pounds of a different class of structural steel over the main channel of the Ohio River
Eleven piers were installed to support the superstructure which required the drilling of 75 caissons to provide the foundations for ten of the eleven piers and one abutment. 9 The caissons, with a diameter from 54 inches to 108 inches, were drilled with polymer slurry to help control the silty soil. The other pier and abutment used traditional driven-steel piling.
WVDOH paid 65% of the total construction costs from accumulated amounts left in various senate appropriation bills by West Virginia Senator Byrd while the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) provided the remaining 35%. 1
Construction crews applied a latex modified concrete overlay on the bridge deck and finished steel painting, approach roadway work, and guardrail construction in April 2008. 6 The new Blennerhassett Island Bridge opened to traffic on June 13, 6 later than the original projected open date of August 14, 2007. 9 The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, and various other state officials. 6
The Blennerhassett Bridge, with 2,633-feet of approaches in West Virginia, 495-feet of approaches in Ohio, and an 880-foot main span, 1 4 5 is the largest bridge of its type in the United States. 5 6
- State: Ohio, West Virginia
- Route: US Route 50
- Type: Tied Arch
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 4,009 feet
- Main Span Length: 880 feet
- Deck Width: 100 feet
- Total Height: 175 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Blennerhassatt.” West Virginia Department of Transportation. N.p., 2009. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. Article.
- “Blennerhasset Island Bridge.” E.L. Robinson. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. Article.
- Wollmann, Gregor, Theodore Zoli, and J. Shook. “Design of Tied Arch Bridge Across Ohio River and Blennerhassett Island.” 22nd Annual International Bridge Conference. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 13 – 15, 2005. Pittsburgh: n.p., 2005. N. pag. Print.
- Wollmann, Gregor, and Theodore Zoli. “Bridge Across Ohio River and Blennerhassett Island.” Structural Engineering International 18.1 (2008): n. pag. Print.
- “Blennerhasset Bridge.” Walsh Construction. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. Article.
- Dunlap, Brett. “Blennerhassett Bridge set to open June 13.”News and Sentinel. N.p., 7 May 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2009.Article.
- “DOT officials tour Blennerhassett Island Bridge project.” Roads & Bridges. N.p., 21 July 2004. Web. 3 Dec. 2009.Article.
- “The Blennerhassett Arch – West Virginia.” PDM Bridge. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. Article.
- Deneault, Joe. “Bridging the Past.” Modern Steel ConstructionJan. 2007: n. pag. Print.