Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Saying goodbye to the old bridge at Bridgeport

13

Wheeling, West Virginia, is well known for its suspension bridge that carried the National Road across the Ohio River. It delivers westbound travelers onto Wheeling Island, and from there they must cross the Ohio River’s backchannel to finally enter Ohio at the little town of Bridgeport. That, of course, involves another bridge. This map shows them both:

That bridge is a modern slab that utterly lacks romance. But check out the bridge that stands next to it.

Bridgeport Bridge

This is the Bridgeport Bridge, named after the town at its west end. It was built in 1893 of wrought iron with a wooden deck, atop piers that originally carried a bridge built here in 1837. A new deck of steel grate was laid in 1950. Subsequently, time (surely aided by lack of maintenance) was not kind to this bridge, and safety became a serious concern. In 1987, additional trusses were installed to temporarily shore up the crumbling substructure. In 1998, a new bridge was completed alongside, and this old girl was abandoned.

Bridgeport Bridge

My old buddy Jeff was along for this segment of the trip, and he noticed a sign hanging from one of the cross braces. “I want to know what’s on that sign,” he said, and quickly we found ourselves, um, trespassing. Stepping out onto the adjacent walkway (as the bridge’s deck had been removed) we soon had our answer.

Bridgeport Bridge

The walkway railing was in nice shape, despite the branches growing through.

Bridgeport Bridge

I wish the same could be said about the bridge’s substructure.

Bridgeport Bridge

This bridge is a basket case if I’ve ever seen one.

Bridgeport Bridge

Rumors have persisted for years that this bridge would soon be demolished, but now a television station in nearby Steubenville reports that it will come down in July, 2011. They say that the bridge’s railing and finials, as well as that Ohio State Line sign, will be given to local historical societies. I suppose that’s better than nothing.

I was a little nervous to visit this bridge because the last time I did, I wrecked my car. Read that story.

13 thoughts on “Saying goodbye to the old bridge at Bridgeport

  1. Lone Primate

    You’re lucky to have gotten there on time! And lucky to have such a bridge, too. I missed out on photographing one of the last wooden road bridges over a RR line in southern Ontario by about a year, and I was just kicking myself. Ditto a set of abutments that stood, bridgeless, for 60 years but fell to the construction of an even NEWER bridge, again by about a year. You got this one in a timely fashion.

    And it’s lovely. I wish I could have been there! Do you know when it closed to road traffic? That shot of the tree growing through the bridge is gorgeous, and also suggests it was quite a while ago!

    1. Jim Post author

      I have to assume that this bridge was closed when the new one opened in 1998, so just 13 years. I wish I had known about this bridge back in 1991-ish when I made a trip through here. I just zoomed by on I-70.

      And yes, it was lucky I got there on time, as I didn’t know about its pending demolition until after I got home!

  2. ryoko861

    So sad to see a bridge of that beauty deteriorating! I guess it would have cost too much to make the newer bridge as pretty. You have pictures though to preserve it’s dignity! Glad to hear they’ll save some of it for the historical society.

    1. Jim Post author

      I’m not sure why, but the people who own the bridges so often don’t maintain them, and soon it gets to the point where they have no choice but to replace them. The Bridgeport bridge was very narrow, however, which I’m sure contributed to the desire to build new. Today, most highway bridges are “UCEBs” (ugly concrete eyesore bridges) — a simple, but graceless, slab. They serve their function and are relatively inexpensive to build.

  3. Kurt

    Wow-that’s quite a bridge. Hard to believe with the preservation requirements on DOTs these days that this bridge is coming down. They should keep the “portals” and do a small rest stop on either side.

    1. Jim Post author

      What a great idea, keeping the portals. Hard telling what they’ll actually do, though. My understanding is that out there, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge eclipses them all and so this bridge is seen as an eyesore.

  4. Pingback: Bridgeport Bridge (Finally) Came Down | The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

  5. Bridgehunting Texas

    This is becoming standard procedure to intentionally allow infrastructure to deteriorate to the point that they can not be preserved, and is instead demolished. Then maximum profit banal structures are built by huge national corporate Contractors. It is driven by greed and corporate welfare. For example, in Arizona they have closed the Highway Safety Rest Stops to save money, at the same time giving millions of dollars of tax breaks to huge national mall developers. These restored bridges become floating parks for citizens, for exercise, picnics, weddings, and tourist attraction. Not to mention preserving our history, and sense of community. None of these things serve corporate greed. Main street America doesn’t get a dime to preserve our history and communities. Funneling tax money to giant developers and contractors is all that matters. Same chain stores siphoning money out of communities, same concrete slab bridges everywhere you go. Welcome to Corporate Generica!!!

    1. Jim Post author

      Yeah, there was an old concrete-arch bridge on old US 52 a couple miles from here, built in the 1920s and then widened in the 1930s. The city and the county merged, and then US 52 was rerouted on to a nearby Interstate, and the city barely maintained the bridge. It was in frightening shape when it was demolished and a new UCEB built. I’m sure the city knew that it could get matching Federal funds for a rebuild, but that maintenance was all on them, and so it made the choice of lowest cost to them.

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