Wheeling Island resident takes pride in suspension bridge

Photos by Scott McCloskey Longtime Wheeling Island Resident Bill Seabright clears grass, weeds and debris from the approach ramp on the island of the structure Monday.

WHEELING — Longtime Wheeling Island Resident Bill Seabright takes great pride in the historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge and his community. That’s why he has concerns not only about the aging structure itself but also about the approach ramp leading to the span from South Front Street.

Seabright, who takes time about once every two weeks to clear small patches of grass, weeds and any debris or trash from the approach ramp, said it would be nice if West Virginia Division of Highways officials take a closer look at the cracking pavement of the approach ramp.

While Seabright, 81, is quick to recognize that he is not an engineer, he said he thinks the cracks will only worsen and cause additional problems to the ramp if they’re not repaired. He said with the bridge being temporarily closed for the next few weeks, this would be the perfect time for DOH officials to repair or at least fill-in the cracks on the approach ramp.

The span has been closed since June 29 after a charter bus that exceeded the 2-ton weight limit drove across the bridge and compromised its integrity. Since then, City of Wheeling officials said they expect the span to be closed for several more weeks as the DOH makes necessary repairs and allows them to install “hard barriers” at both ends of the structure to keep buses and larger trucks from crossing the 170-year-old structure.

Seabright said he is “all in favor” of the hard barriers being placed at both ends of the structure to protect the span from any further damage. He said before the bridge was closed, he counted 65 trucks or SUV’s exceeding the weight limit cross the bridge in one afternoon from his front porch. He said he witnesses the weight limit of the bridge being neglected by motorists on a daily basis.

“Something has to be done and I think a bar (hard barrier) will do it,” he added.

He said he just wished more area residents would take pride in the bridge.

“I am concerned about it — I really am,” Seabright said while talking about the overall maintenance of the structure and approach ramps.

Seabright, who lives near the bridge entrance, said he volunteers to clean-up the access ramp from time-to-time along with another neighbor, because he takes tremendous pride in the historic structure and his community.

“I love this bridge. I compare this bridge to the Statue of Liberty,” said Seabright, who has been a resident of Wheeling Island for more than 75 years. “I think this is a remarkable bridge.”