The Charlton Memorial Bridges carry the West Virginia Turnpike and Interstate 77 over the Bluestone River in Mercer County, West Virginia.
The West Virginia state legislature authorized the expenditure of funds toward the study of the feasibility of building a superhighway similar to other projects being planned and constructed in other states. Early proposals called for a highway to be built between Parkersburg and Princeton, while another envisioned a modern highway from Wheeling to Princeton. Those plans were shelved in a 1951 study because of very high costs. It instead recommended that a toll road be built from Ripley to Princeton and that it be built as a two-lane facility with provisions for future widening to four lanes. 1
The ground was broken for the construction of the West Virginia Turnpike in November 1951, but by the time construction began, the northern terminus had been relocated to Charleston. 1 Originally proposed to be four lanes, a decision was made in 1951 to build only two lanes led to a halt of all construction until a final decision could be made. 3 Bondholders appealed to the federal courts and work was ordered resumed. It was said that during its construction, it was a bridge builder’s paradise. 1 On the 88-mile Turnpike from Charleston to Princeton, three major bridges and 73 minor bridges with an average length of 237 feet were erected. 2
A 35-mile segment of the new West Virginia Turnpike from Princeton to Beckley—and a major bridge over the Bluestone River in Mercer County, was dedicated on September 2, 1954. 3 It was dedicated to Sgt. Cornelius Charlton, a World War II hero from East Gulf who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
Studies were undertaken to upgrade the Turnpike in the early 1970s, and work to upgrade the highway to four lanes had commenced because of escalating traffic counts and congestion, and because of a high number of accidents. The update was also needed because of the proposal to route Interstate 77 over the Turnpike.
A parallel bridge to the original Charlton Bridge for northbound traffic was completed in 1979, and the original circa 1954 Charlton Bridge was rehabilitated in 1983.
- State: West Virginia
- Route: West Virginia Turnpike, Interstate 77
- Type: Warren Deck Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 1,341 feet (1954); 1,512 feet (1979)
- Main Span Length: 504 feet (1954); 518 feet (1979)
- Deck Width: 34.8 feet (1954); 40.5 feet (1979)
- Total Height: 246 feet (1954); 246 feet (1979)
- Navigational Clearance:
- Monday, Christopher R. “The West Virginia Turnpike: 88 Miles of Miracle.” West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. Vol. 11, no. 2, 2 Mar. 2003.
- Donnelly, Shirley. “New Bridge To Dwarf Other Spans.” Beckley Post-Herald, 30 Jun. 1973, p. 4.
- “Turnpike Dedicated Today By Governor William G. Marland.” Hinton Daily News, 2 Sept. 1954, pp. 1-5.