Bridge proposal outlines rehabilitation, toll plans

Parkersburg City Council to hear presentation at 7 p.m.

United Bridge Partners has submitted a bid and proposal to purchase and rehabilitate the Memorial Bridge from the City of Parkersburg. (File Photo)

PARKERSBURG — The Memorial Bridge would undergo a nearly two-year rehabilitation project before tolls increase and switch to completely electronic collection under a proposal before Parkersburg City Council.

Colorado-based United Bridge Partners would pay $4 million, take over responsibility for its operations and embark on an approximately 21-month effort to deliver “a fully-rehabilitated bridge … that will be open and operational for a minimum 50-year service life,” according to bid documents.

Council will meet as the Committee of the Whole at 7 p.m. today at the Municipal Building to hear a presentation on the bid. The proposal would have to be approved on two readings by council, likely at its regular meetings in May, before it could be authorized.

A representative of United Bridge Partners previously said they would answer questions from the media about the project after the meeting. But nearly 100 pages of documents outlining the proposal are available for review in the city clerk’s office.

They indicate the company has been laying the groundwork for the project since 2018, meeting with local and state officials, reviewing bridge inspection reports and conducting field inspections.

“We have the support of several local trades groups, and it is estimated this project will result in 285 new jobs and $38 million in local economic output,” the proposal says.

Mayor Tom Joyce has said the bridge is structurally sound, but the city will never have the financial means to replace it.

The city’s initial request for proposals sought a new bridge, but in a December 2019 meeting, “we indicated that a full replacement is not necessary from a structural perspective and would not be in the best interest of the city and its residents, nor would it be economically feasible,” the UBP proposal says.

Council voted in January 2020 to amend the request to seek significant rehabilitation instead.

UBP, the sole bidder, is backed by the $1 billion New American Bridges Fund and has the equity capital commitments to cover the project.

“The project will be fully funded at day one without any debt or public funds, meaning there will never be any question related to our ability to fund, deliver and complete the project,” the proposal says.

The company plans to relinquish approximately $15 million in funding the city has dedicated to the bridge, while splitting all net profit from toll collections during the rehabilitation period.

If the agreement is authorized, UBP would work with the city to secure approval of the sale and initial toll rates from the West Virginia Public Service Commission, the proposal says.

The rehabilitation will include a new paint/coating system, complete replacement of the deck, repairs to the steel superstructure and substructure, new lighting and more. It’s estimated to be completed by October 2023.

By 2024, UBP expects to transition to an all-electronic, open-road tolling system that will not require vehicles to stop. Motorists will utilize an E-ZPass transponder system or license plates will be scanned and motorists billed.

“We fully appreciate the importance of not over-burdening the community with high tolls — it is not in our best interest to do so — and we aim to offer the most beneficial structure and rates that are economically feasible,” the proposal says.

A trip across the bridge costs 50 cents, with discounts available when motorists purchase books of tickets.

The proposal estimates new tolls starting at $1 per crossing. A flat monthly rate for unlimited crossings using transponders will be offered, projected to start at $30. An additional fee will be charged to users without transponders.

UBP plans to establish a local presence for operations. It’s working with companies with local ties and experience, including lead contractor Kokosing Construction Company, engineering and architectural firm Burgess & Niple and law firm Bowles Rice. Kokosing is committed to using a union labor force to complete the project, the proposal says.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.


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