The Donald M. Legg and Nitro WWI Memorial Bridges carry Interstate 64 across the Kanawha River in Putnam County, West Virginia.
The first segment of Interstate 64 to be constructed in West Virginia was in Cabell County in 1956 between Huntington and Ona, which opened to traffic in 1960. 3 A lengthy segment from Milton to Teays Valley opened to traffic in 1962, and then towards WV Route 17 at St. Albans in 1963.
A crossing of the Kanawha River was required to connect St. Albans to Nitro and eastward towards Charleston, and planning for the bridge began in 1959. 2 Michael Baker Jr., consulting engineer, designed a 1,390-foot three-span cantilever truss and plate girder bridge which would include more than 5,000 tons of structural steel. Edward Miller, a bridge engineer, spent 100 hours putting together a wood and paper miniature model of the bridge which was displayed at the State Road Commission’s regional office. It was estimated that the new crossing would cost $4 million.
In 1960, the Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh constructed the concrete piers for the new bridge at the cost of $411,000. 2 The State Road Commission received a low bid of $2.13 million from the Allied Structural Steel Company of Chicago for the steel superstructure on April 18, 1961. 1
The new Interstate 64 bridge over the Kanawha River opened in December 1963. 5 It was noteworthy for being the widest ever constructed in the state, the first to have a center median strip topped with a 36-inch concrete riser and parapet dividing the four 12-foot traffic lanes. 2
On December 20, Rep. Ken Hechler remarked that the new Kanawha River bridge be named the Don Legg Memorial Bridge in honor of a workman who fell to his death during its construction. 4 Legg, a graduate of Buffalo High School, was employed as an ironworker on the bridge when he fell to his death on March 20, 1962. Hechler received several endorsements of the idea, including from the president of the West Virginia Federation of Labor, and the motion to name the bridge after Legg was eventually passed.
The widening of Interstate 64 between Huntington and Charleston, discussed since the 1990s, began in earnest in the 2000s, eventually leaving Legg Memorial Bridge as a four-lane bottleneck between six-lane segments. 8
In November 2019, the West Virginia Department of Transportation awarded a $224.4 million design and build contract for a supplemental crossing to the Legg Memorial Bridge to a joint venture of Brayman Construction and Trumbull Construction. 6 The project involves building a new girder structure to carry westbound Interstate 64 traffic, rebuilding Legg Memorial Bridge for eastbound traffic, widen 3.7 miles of the interstate between Teays Valley and Nitro, and reconstruct the WV Route 817 interchange.
Construction on the project began in April 2021 8 and the first girders were installed on the new bridge on February 21, 2022. 9 The new westbound bridge opened to two westbound and two eastbound traffic lanes on October 28. 10 In November, crews began removing the circa 1963 span with the center 250-foot-long truss span cut and lowered with stand jacks to an awaiting barge on December 21. 11
A new matching girder structure for eastbound traffic will be built in place of the circa 1963 span in 2023. 11 The entire project is expected to be completed by October 2023. 6
- State: West Virginia
- Route: Interstate 64
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 1,390 feet
- Main Span Length: 562.5 feet
- Deck Width: 61.5 feet
- Height: 68 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 19.7 feet
- “Interstate Bids Received.” Charleston Daily Mail, 19 Apr. 1961, p. 17.
- “Route 64 To Have State’s Widest Bridge Near Nitro.” Charleston Daily Mail, 23 Feb. 1961, p. 33.
- Release Date Report. West Virginia Department of Transportation. Aug. 2003.
- “Legg Memorial Name Suggested for I-64 Bridge.” Raleigh Register [Beckley], 20 Dec. 1963, p. 2.
- “Interstate 64 Bridge at Nitro Being Used.” Charleston Daily Mail, 6 Dec. 1963, p. 35.
- “West Virginia picks contractor for upgrade of Legg Memorial Bridge.” Bridge Design & Engineering, 11 Nov. 2019.
- Federal Highway Administration and West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, 2016, I-64 Six Lane Widening (Crooked Creek to Nitro) Finding of No Significant Impact.
- Steelhammer, Rick. “Work begins on six-lane Nitro-St. Albans I-64 Kanawha River crossing.” Gazette-Mail [Charleston], 7 Apr. 2021.
- “Work continuing on new West Virginia bridge on I-64.” Herald-Dispatch [Huntington], 28 Feb. 2022.
- Steelhammer, Rick. “New I-64 span to begin carrying traffic on Saturday.” Gazette-Mail [Charleston], 27 Oct. 2022.
- Rafferty, Kim. “Part of I-64 bridge history comes down.” WSAZ, 21 Dec. 2022.