WSAZ Investigates | Bridge Hole Concerns

WSAZ Investigates | Bridge Hole Concerns
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:43 PM EST
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A heavily traveled interstate bridge had to be shut down for emergency repairs Wednesday after a large hole was discovered by a crew chief.

It happened on Interstate 79 South near the Interstate 77 split in the Charleston area.

Crews had the area opened within a few hours, but there is still a gap in drivers’ sense of security.

“[The hole] could do damage to your vehicle or cause an accident,” Rachel Adkins from Clendenin said.

Nathan Winthrow, of Smithers, shared general concerns during his daily commute to work in Charleston.

“They’re always doing roadwork,” he said. “There are always signs up for one reason or another, whether it be holes in the road, whether it be anything that you can think of really, so it’s really it’s a pain, traffic getting backed up with it because of the roads.”

WSAZ found it is not the first time a large hole has been discovered in a major bridge.

In January 2020, the Carter Memorial Bridge in Charleston had to be closed for several hours because of a hole in the deck.

A month later, the old Nitro-St. Albans bridge was shut down for two days because of hole officials said was caused by a failing expansion joint.

WSAZ reached out to transportation officials in Kentucky and Ohio, and both said they had not had any issues with holes in bridges in the viewing area.

So why is the problem happening in West Virginia?

WSAZ called a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. When she did not answer the call, WSAZ followed up with questions in an email including why holes keep appearing in bridges.

She replied in a statement:

“Potholes form on bridge surfaces as they do on roadways. The average daily traffic for the Charleston area is a lot higher than a lot of surrounding areas, being 132,620 vehicles per day and 16,000 are tractor-trailers. Bridge designs are based on load capacity for tractor trailers as they are the vehicles that cause the most wear and tear. During the winter is when we see the most deterioration where salt and ice going into hairline fractures of the pavement and repeatedly freeze and thaw, however, there are multiple causes that can cause potholes and other deterioration.”

WSAZ asked some follow-up questions, asking if salt had been applied to the bridge since last winter and what crews believed caused the bridge hole to open.

As of 6:45 pm Thursday, WSAZ still has not heard a response.

While the bridge is back open, drivers said -- with harsh winter weather ahead -- they have concerns.

“I know the salt eats the road and then by the time spring gets here, it’s just gonna be awful,” Adkins, who drives along the part of the interstate near the bridge a handful of times a week, said.

“Get better about fixing things that need fixing the road. Because they’re not, they’re not as apt to get out there and do it as quickly as they really should,” Winthrow said.

Counterparts in Ohio said as for preventative maintenance on bridges, there is a program for maintenance. More detailed information is expected Friday.

In Kentucky, all steel bridges are cleaned and painted on a schedule.

In West Virginia, bridges are inspected every two years and then cleaning and painting is scheduled if deemed necessary.