State, local officials celebrate I-70 Bridges project coming to an end

Photos by Eric Ayres State and local officials gather at WesBanco Arena Friday to celebrate the official completion of the Interstate 70 Bridges Project after more than three years of major construction on the major highway artery. Participating in a celebratory ribbon cutting, from left, are W.Va. Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston, W.Va. Division of Highways District 6 Engineer Tony Clark, Gov. Jim Justice, Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron and Wheeling City Councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum.

WHEELING — Gov. Jim Justice joined state and local officials in Wheeling Friday to celebrate the official completion of the largest of his Roads To Prosperity projects to date — the Interstate 70 Bridges Project.

After more than three years of construction at a cost of more than $214 million in investment, the primary east-west traffic artery through the Northern Panhandle has undergone the most significant upgrade since its construction. A total of 26 bridges along I-70 from Wheeling Island to Elm Grove — including the Fort Henry Bridge over the Ohio River — were either replaced or rehabbed, along with entrance and exit ramps.

Officials from the West Virginia Division of Highways, the city of Wheeling and other agencies that lended support to the massive endeavor were on hand Friday to celebrate the I-70 Bridges Project’s completion. The gathering took place on the west riverside patio of WesBanco Arena, which overlooks the freshly painted Fort Henry Bridge in the background.

“I congratulate all of you,” Justice said. “You made me really proud. It’s great, great work. I salute every single one of you, and I thank you beyond belief.”

Work on the I-70 Bridges Project began in the design phase following a 2017 study on this major highway corridor through the panhandle between the Pennsylvania and Ohio state lines. The project was put out to bid in 2019, when Swank Construction of Kensington, Pennsylvania, was awarded the contract for just under $215 million.

Construction began in the fall of 2019 and concluded last fall, with the final clean-up of finishing touches and the removal of the last orange barrels marked at the end of 2022.

State officials noted that the enormous magnitude of this project left many people skeptical about how much should be taken on at once. Many people expressed concerns about traffic headaches and other potential issues, officials said, but everybody worried about the traffic control, but everyone worked together as a team to complete the project efficiently, on time and on budget.

“We are so good in this state, if you just unleash us,” Justice said. “We know the difference between right and wrong. We’re the ones who get it right so often. So many times we’re kind of shoved down or put down, and said to ‘stay in your place.’ And then all of the sudden when we really get turned loose, look what happens.”

The governor thanked all of the contractors and city and state employees who helped make this project come to fruition.

Officials noted that a lot has changed since the ribbon cutting on the project took place nearly four years ago, and motorists are surely taking note of the improvements.

“When we left this job several years ago, it was the largest endeavor the Division of Highways ever took on,” Randy Damron said. “We’re here today to celebrate. We promised it, and we delivered it. It’s all part of Gov. Justice’s Roads to Prosperity.”

W.Va. Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston said all the work that took place during the I-70 Bridges Project could have been done “piece-meal,” but that approach would have taken a decade or more to complete.

“This is exactly what the Roads to Prosperity is all about,” Wriston said. “It really is a great day to be in Wheeling. This has changed the landscape up here. These 26 structures that we just completed and opened — it adds a vibrancy to the whole city of Wheeling. This is the effect of the investment in our infrastructure.”

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron offered his gratitude to Justice and the DOH for their work in completing a crucial project for the Northern Panhandle.

“I’d like to express our sincerest appreciation to Governor Justice for his vision and support to undertake a very ambitious and desperately needed project,” Herron said. “The completion of these bridges makes for smooth and safe travel for thousands of motorists each day.”

Herron praised the DOH officials for their work in coordinating the massive and extremely complex project that will rest in smooth travel for motorists venturing through the city on I-70 for many years to come.

“This project provides a wonderful reflection of our state,” Herron said. “Secretary Jimmy Wriston, District Engineer Tony Clark and all of their staffs managed this project with exceptional professionalism and responsiveness. This has been an excellent example of a well done public works project and congratulations are in order for all involved.”


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