Make barriers appealing

Apparently, some people cannot read the signs advising that large, heavy vehicles are banned on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

Perhaps barriers they cannot pass — at least not without damaging their own trucks and buses — will do the trick.

A large tour bus driven across the span on June 29 damaged part of the structure, West Virginia Division of Highways officials have concluded. During the next month or so, the bridge will remain closed while it is repaired and “hard barriers” are put in place.

Several possible solutions to this problem have been debated. Some have advocated for small tolls on the bridge, so that vehicles would have to be stopped at either end of the span before entering it. Tolls might also discourage traffic from out of town, since GPS devices generally direct travelers away from toll booths.

Others have called for the bridge to be open to pedestrians only. The bridge is too important, though, to local traffic for those solutions to work well. So, instead, officials will physically block large vehicles from entering it.

For the time being, some sort of temporary barrier system will be installed.

But Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott has noted there is some concern about the appearance of permanent barriers. As much as possible, they should blend in with the appearance of the 170-year-old bridge, he explained.

Effective barriers will alter the appearance of approaches to the bridge. That is unavoidable; for most of the span’s history, there was no need to limit access to it.

But groups concerned with local history are right to ask the DOH to design permanent barriers that fit in with the bridge’s appearance as much as possible. The span is a treasure in large measure because it looks like something from a bygone era.

Because of its importance, the bridge simply must be protected, but in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible.

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