MASON, W.Va. — It’s been nearly 18 months since work began by local and state officials to get the lights on the Bridge of Honor connecting Mason and Pomeroy, Ohio, restored to their former splendor, and now there seems to be some lights at the end of the tunnel.
Since the bridge was constructed, more than 40 of the lights have stopped illuminating. This caused the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) to make the decision early in 2015 to simply cut the breaker to the decorative lights.
Last week, West Virginia 13th District Delegate Scott Cadle (R-Mason) said he has been told by representatives from WVDOT that testing has been completed on the lights. The conclusion was that it was the heat from the bulbs causing the light covers to burst, and not vandals as first thought.
Cadle said the bulb heat, which reached in excess of 200 degrees, caused pressure that could not escape because of the covers, and in turn caused the lights to break.
Brent Walker, director of communications for WVDOT, said recently, “We are dealing with the lighting issues and should have them addressed soon.”
Cadle, who has been instrumental since March 2014 in keeping the issue at the forefront, said the problem was heightened because the company that first sold the lights went out of business. He stated the manufacturer that took over the company is now trying to design a new cover. The cover will allow the pressure to release, but also keep dirt, water and salt out of the lighting mechanism.
“This is a cheaper route than replacing all of the light fixtures,” Cadle added.
Perry Varnadoe, director of Meigs County Economic Development, expressed his appreciation for all the work being done to get the lights back on.
“It’s really a centerpiece for Pomeroy, Middleport and Mason,” he stated. “When the lights are on, it’s more than a bridge, it’s a destination for folks to come to see.”
A history of the Bridge of Honor:
The original estimate for the Bridge of Honor was $45.8 million ($3 million under the estimate) but over 118 change orders later and that price ended up at $65 million. The original contract to build the bridge was signed April 24, 2003, with the original completion date being Aug. 31, 2006. The majority of the increase over the years came from the slip on the Ohio side which required a major redesign. The Bridge of Honor ended up opening to traffic on Dec. 30, 2008.
Nearly six years in the making, the Ohio Department of Transportation managed the project while CJ Mahan Construction Co. of Grove City, Ohio, in a joint venture with National Engineering and Contracting Co. from Strongsville, Ohio. They each worked on constructing the bridge that saw its fair share of challenges and that, at times, seemed stranger than fiction, though all were met in the end.
There was the slip on the Ohio side that required additional engineering and support; the substandard concrete on the West Virginia tower ultimately had to be dismantled and poured again; a layer of shale was found on the hillside above the Ohio approach requiring additional excavation work near the bridge’s retaining wall; and unforeseen equipment delays resulted in no work being done on the bridge’s span for nine months.
Other facts about the Bridge of Honor include: The aviation lights on the top of each tower are in different United States aerospace regions. The red light on the West Virginia side is in the Washington, D.C., aerospace region while the light on the Ohio side is in the St. Louis aerospace region. In addition, the piers go 90 feet below the river surface with the top of the tower being 248.5 feet above the water and 168 feet above the roadway.
There were 120 miles of cable used on the structure, as well as 16 miles of longitudinal deck tendons and 6.9 million pounds of rebar. The tubes that house the cable have spirals on their exteriors to combat ice and wind. Inside these tubes may be as many as 27, 31 and 61 strands of 5/8-inch cable, with the larger amount of cable being placed toward the center of the bridge.
The width of the bridge is 74.08 feet, compared to the width of the old Pomeroy Mason Bridge, which has a 20-foot span from curb to curb. The bridge is 1,852.51 feet long while the existing bridge is 1,847.75 long. The Bridge of Honor also required more than 15,000 cubic yards of concrete — enough to fill four Olympic-size pools.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County. Beth Sergent also contributed to this story.