The Memorial Bridge, a private tollled crossing over the Ohio River, connects Parkersburg, West Virginia to Belpre, Ohio.
Memorial Bridge was first proposed in the late 1940s to provide a bypass of downtown Parkersburg and relieve congestion on the two-lane Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge over the Ohio River. 1 There had been little action towards constructing a second regional river crossing until the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge had to be closed for repairs in February 1951, necessitating the use of a ferry between the two cities.
Later in the year, Parkersburg’s City Council was approached by the Norman Ward & Company of Pittsburgh who had asked the city for a contract on financing a proposed bridge. 1 The company proposed issuing $6.76 million in bonds to finance the construction of the crossing, which would be repaid back with bridge tolls. The idea received City Council approval in late 1951.
The consulting engineering firm Hazlett & Erdal came up with designs for the proposed bridge, which received approval by City Council and the West Virginia State Road Commission in December 1952. 1 William J. Howard. Inc. was selected as the contractor for the project.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new river crossing was held on March 12, 1953. 1 Construction on the river piers began on May 12 and the piers had been completed by mid-January 1954. The erection of the main steel superstructure over the river began from both sides on April 1 and the two sides met in the center on June 10. The superstructure was completed by the end of July, and the new Memorial Bridge, named after World War II veterans, opened to traffic on January 12, 1955. 1
Traffic volumes on the Memorial Bridge grew from less than 500,000 vehicles annually in 1955 to nearly 3 million vehicles annually by 1979, partly because the ailing Parkersburg‐Belpre Bridge had become weight restricted. 4 A new Parkersburg‐Belpre Bridge opened to traffic in February 1980 which caused truck traffic levels to plummet on the Memorial Bridge.
The construction bonds for the Memorial Bridge were paid off on July 1, 2001, at which point the City of Parkersburg assumed ownership of the crossing, which included a stipulation that the city maintain a fund for its eventual demolition. 2 3 4
Traffic counts for the Memorial Bridge had recovered by 1991 and peaked at 4.8 million vehicles annually by 2007, although the opening of the Blennerhassett Bridge for US Route 50 caused vehicle counts to decline to 4 million vehicles by 2010. 4
With an eye towards the replacement of Memorial Bridge, which could cost between $80 million to $100 million, City Council voted to explore options to sell the crossing on December 18, 2018. 4 In February 2021, Colorado-based United Bridge Partners was selected by the city to purchase, rehabilitate, and operate the Memorial Bridge. The company acquired the bridge from the city for $4 million in May. 5 6
In March 2022, United Bridge Partners is expected to begin a large-scale rehabilitation project on Memorial Bridge to extend its lifespan by at least 50 years. 5 The $50 million project will include a new paint and coating system, a new driving deck, superstructure and substructure repairs, upgraded lighting, and the replacement of the manned toll booth with a new open-road, all-electronic tolling system. 6
Initially, the US Route 50 designation was moved from the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge onto the Memorial Bridge. 4 In September 1964, the US Route 50 and OH Route 7 freeway bypass of Belpre opened which offered a direct connection to the Memorial Bridge. In 1966, the Memorial Bridge was re-designated as US Route 50 Truck and the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge was re-designated as US Route 50.
At the eastern terminus of the West Virginia approach to the Memorial Bridge, the West Virginia State Road Commission had selected an alignment for a four-lane US Route 50 bypass of Parkersburg. 4 The route passed through Parkersburg and North Parkersburg, interchanged with Interstate 77, and rejoined existing US Route 50 at Deerwalk. There was heavy opposition to the northern Parkersburg alignment as it would have required the demolition of numerous residences and businesses in heavily populated neighborhoods. (The US Route 50 bypass of Parkersburg was eventually constructed south of the city across Blennerhassett Island.)
- State: Ohio, West Virginia
- Route: US Route 50 Alternate
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 2,556 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,400 feet
- Deck Width: 31 feet
- Roadway Width: 28 feet
- Total Height: 14.9 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 30 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Memorial Bridge History Parkersburg WV.” Mackey’s Antiques & Clock Repair.
- Baucher, Todd, and Michael Tatar Greenfield. “UPDATE: Mayor: Three agencies interested in buying Memorial Toll Bridge.” WTAP, 17 Mar. 2019.
- Bevins, Evan. “Parkersburg considering parting with Memorial Bridge.” News and Sentinel [Parkersburg], 14 Dec. 2018.
- 2018 Annual Report. City of Parkersburg, 2019.
- Bevins, Evan. “Memorial Bridge contractor leases site from Parkersburg Utility Board.” News and Sentinel [Parkersburg], 30 Oct. 2021.
- “Parkersburg Memorial Bridge Rehabilitation.” United Bridge Partners.