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Memorial Bridge traffic count expected to remain steady

PARKERSBURG — The planned rehabilitation of the Memorial Bridge would open it up to heavy trucks again, but the company buying the bridge doesn’t expect the daily traffic count to change much.

During an event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley and Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, representatives of United Bridge Partners, parent company of Parkersburg Bridge Partners, provided an update on its planned purchase of the bridge and $50 million rehabilitation.

The company said a review of city statistics, revenue and cell phone data indicated a little more than 12,000 vehicles a day cross the toll bridge.

But even after trucks weighing more than 10 tons are allowed back on the bridge, those additions may be offset by people choosing alternate routes once tolls increase, said Ryan Dolan, vice president of development for UBP.

The bridge has been on a weight restriction since 2017 after Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce issued an emergency order to pave the deck with asphalt instead of a resin/aggregate overlay due to issues with the bridge’s subsurface grid.

Making those repairs would have increased the cost of the project and duration of its closure that summer, so the switch was made to asphalt. But because the material was heavier, the 10-ton weight limit had to be imposed.

Parkersburg Bridge Partners is in the process of acquiring the Memorial Bridge from the city. The rehabilitation project is being designed now, and some early steel repair is expected to begin later this month.

The full project is expected to get underway in March, with a projected completion date of October 2023.

Lee Whitney, senior associate with UBP, said Tuesday that the company would work to educate the trucking community once the bridge is again able to accept heavier truck traffic. He projected heavier trucks would account for about 1 percent of daily traffic in the first year, gradually increasing to 5 percent over three years.

Tolls will remain at the present rate of 50 cents per trip for two-axle vehicles during the rehabilitation process. But once the work is done, the bridge will transition to a no-stop, electronic toll model, where vehicles are charged via an installed transponder or billed after their license plate is scanned. The price is expected to rise to at least $1 for a single trip, although monthly rates will be available.

Barb Close, with Huntington Bank, said at the meeting she’ll be glad to see fewer heavy trucks coming through downtown.

“It’s exciting that this bridge is going to welcome large trucks,” she said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at

ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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