By Richard Babich
Times West Virginian
The Fourth Street Bridge in Fairmont has been closed to all vehicles and pedestrians.
The West Virginia Division of Highways recommended to the city that the bridge should be closed. On Monday, city employees barricaded the bridge and placed “bridge closed” signs on either end of the bridge.
According to DOH District Four bridge engineer Randy Harris, the 74-year-old bridge was closed because of “overall general deterioration due to age.”
“The bridge has had problems in the past and the worst section is impossible to access hands-on,” Harris said. “So rather than take a chance on missing something, we chose the path to close it to be on the safe side.”
The state highway department is responsible for inspecting bridges in the state.
Harris said that if a bridge is deemed to have a capacity of “less than three tons, we deem it unsafe.”
The Fourth Street Bridge no longer has a three-ton rating limit.
According to Fairmont city manager Jay Rogers, an in-depth periodic inspection of the bridge this year took place in February. The last inspection of the bridge was made in March 2012.
In the report given to Rogers, “conventional access” to the underside of the bridge is not possible.
“One of the things that the report highlights is that there is a section of the bridge that there are no drawings available for (the bridge),” Rogers said “They’re not able to perform a stress analysis to know what the amount of rebar that should be in there versus what is in there now.
“We knew that the bridge had probably gone through its useful life cycle, and have been working over the last five to 10 years to get that funding in place,” Rogers said. “Through the delegates and senator ... the funding has been put in place.”
Replacing the Fourth Street Bridge is part of a project that was set to be completed in 2015. Rogers said the bridge replacement project is in the process of being expedited.
“It is already in the design process to be relocated and ... the new bridge would be constructed at Third Street,” Rogers said.
The bridge may be demolished sooner than planned.
“We have begun having conversations with the Division of Highways, due to this closure, that we would like to see the demolition of the Fourth Street Bridge take place sooner in the project rather than at the end of the project. Since it’s going to be closed, just to go ahead and get the structure out of the way so that it cannot be used by the public,” Rogers said.
According to Rogers, Seventh Street, Country Club Road and Jackson Street may be used to travel between Locust and Fairmont avenues.
Email Richard Babich at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.