MASON, W.Va. — The Bridge of Honor, the structure which connects the Town of Mason to Pomeroy, was a topic of discussion at this week’s meeting of the Mason County Commission.
At the meeting were Max Hyman, field representative from U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R) office and Michael Chirico, field representative from U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins’ (R) office. Commissioners Rick Handley, Miles Epling and Tracy Doolittle were also present at the meeting.
Handley brought up the cable-stayed structure and complaints by residents on how the bridge has gone dark; how it used to look with its unique lighting that was, for many people, an integral part of the bridge’s appearance. Handley pointed out this bridge is named after some of the area’s highly decorated veterans: Staff Sgt. Jimmie G. Stewart, of Mason County, with family from Meigs County, and Gen. James V. Hartinger and Cpl. Edward A. Bennett, both of Meigs County. Stewart and Bennett were Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and Hartinger was a four-star general.
Handley asked Hyman and Chirico if they could check into this issue and get it addressed, and therefore fixed, with help from Sen. Capito and Rep. Jenkins.
The Bridge of Honor opened to traffic on Dec. 30, 2008. Built by the state of Ohio, it was later ceremoniously handed over to the state of West Virginia by then-Gov. Ted Strickland to then-Gov. Joe Manchin during an event in Pomeroy in 2009, though it took a few years before the structure literally went from the Buckeye State to the Mountain State.
The agreement was such that Ohio would build the $65 million bridge and West Virginia would eventually take ownership and maintain it. However, over the last couple of years, a major aesthetic piece of the bridge has gone dark — namely, the indigo lights.
Earlier this year, the Sunday Times-Sentinel’s sister paper, Point Pleasant Register contacted the West Virginia Department of Transportation and was told the lights were not a priority and there were no plans to repair or replace them. A spokesperson had said the decision was made to simply cut the breaker to the lights since a lot of them were not functioning — at that time the estimate was around 40 that were not working. The lights don’t provide any safety for drivers and in a time of decreased funding and tight budgets, it seemed to be an issue of fixing roads and bridges versus making them pleasing to look at.
Mason County Delegate Scott Cadle (R-13th) has also told the Point Pleasant Register he been working on this issue since March 2014. Cadle said the problem stems from the fact that the lights were obsolete shortly after the bridge opened. In addition, the company providing the lights, Hadco, was bought out by another company, Phillips.
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, worked on constructing the bridge that saw its fair share of challenges 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.
Editor’s note: Mindy Kearns also contributed to this article. Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.