The Nick Joe Rahall Bridge carries US Route 52 over the Ohio River in Huntington, West Virginia.
Facing severe congestion on the 6th Street Bridge that carried US Route 52 over the Ohio River between downtown Huntington and Chesapeake, Ohio, the road departments of West Virginia and Ohio began studying for at least one or more bridges connecting Huntington with Ohio. 1 3 It was ultimately decided that two new bridges would be built between the states at West 17th Street and at East 30th Street – later known as the West Huntington and East Huntington Bridges. 1
The West Huntington Bridge and associated West Huntington Expressway would connect the new US Route 52 expressway that was completed in 1962 in Ohio with the under-construction Interstate 64 in West Virginia. 4 In 1964, the West Virginia State Road Commission issued a $16.5 million bond issue to provide funds for the two new bridges. 1 3 The bonds would be retired by the collection of tolls on the two new bridges and the 6th Street Bridge. 3 The tolls on the 6th Street Bridge had been retired in 1952 after the original construction bonds had been paid off. 2
Construction on the bridge began circa 1964. In 1965, the first section of the West Huntington Expressway opened from Interstate 64 to Jefferson Avenue. 6
The tolling proposal proved controversial, leading to a lawsuit in 1968 from the village of Chesapeake and Lawrence County, Ohio against the Commission seeking to dismiss the proposed tolls. 3 The lawsuit was ruled in favor of the Commission and the tolling proposal proceeded.
A dedication ceremony for the bridge was to have been held on Sunday, December 1, but the State Road Commission pushed the event back to December 7 because they did not want it to occur on a Sunday when people could be at church. 5
On December 6, several motorists protested the reinstatement of tolls on the 6th Street Bridge by refusing to pay as they crossed it, causing severe congestion in Huntington and Chesapeake. 2 Another driver handed the attendant a payroll check and drove off. Others hung signs reading “Have a Little Soul – Don’t Pay Toll” and “Here’s the Score: Tolls Make Us Sore.”
The potentiality of further anti-toll protests led the Commission to cancel the dedication ceremony and the bridge opened without fanfare on December 7. 2 The two-lane crossing was completed at the cost of $5.2 million. The bridge and the associated expressway was signed as WV Route 94.
The construction bonds were paid and the tolls removed in 1978. In 1984, the West Huntington Bridge and West Huntington Expressway were redesignated as US Route 52, with the former route through downtown Huntington renumbered as WV Route 527.
In early 1999, the bridge was closed to traffic for rehabilitation, which included the construction of a new bridge deck and the painting of the superstructure. On May 9, the bridge reopened and was subsequently dedicated to Nick Joe Rahall, the then-congressman for the 3rd District of West Virginia. 7
- State: Ohio, West Virginia
- Route: US Route 52
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 2,251 feet
- Main Span Length: 562 feet
- Deck Width: 28 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 20.1 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “West Virginia plans 4 Ohio spans.” Journal Herald [Dayton], 28 Apr. 1970, p. 6.
- “No Soul, No Toll, Say Drivers.” Chillicothe Gazette, 7 Dec. 1968, p. 7.
- “Cabell Bridge Tolls Legal, SRC Contends.” Charleston Daily Mail, 7 Dec. 1968, p. 11.
- “Construction Plans Are Being Prepared.” Greenville Daily Advocate, 14 Aug. 1962, p. 8.
- “Never On Sunday.” Beckley Post-Herald, 27 Nov. 1968, p. 1.
- Opening date reports from the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
- Redekopp, Christina. “West End bridge bears name of Rep. Nick Rahall.” Herald-Dispatch [Huntington] May 9, 1999.