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Changes ordered for Memorial Bridge project

Asphalt surface coming, span on pace to reopen Monday

New toll booths for the Memorial Bridge stand off to the side of the bridge approach. (File Photo)

PARKERSBURG — Mayor Tom Joyce has ordered the deck of the Memorial Bridge paved with asphalt instead of a resin/aggregate overlay due to problems with the bridge’s subsurface grid.

The work is already under way, and the bridge is expected to reopen as scheduled on Monday. However, the heavier material will require a 10-ton weight limit for trucks traveling on the bridge, the mayor said.

“I have authorized and they have already started … putting regular asphalt on the bridge,” Joyce said Wednesday afternoon.

Repairs to the subsurface would have increased the cost and extended the duration of the work, Joyce said. The asphalt surface would be cheaper, would not require those repairs and is expected to ultimately lead to a smoother ride, the mayor said.

Although the project and funding were approved by Parkersburg City Council, Joyce said he made the changes under the authority of Article 135 of the city’s codified ordinances, which allows immediate purchase of supplies or contractual services “in case of an apparent emergency.” The potential extended closure of the bridge and unknown additional costs constituted the emergency, he said.

“The bridge is safe, there’s no question,” Joyce said.

A sub-contractor on the project recently informed city officials that there was more damage and wear to the metal grid beneath the driving surface than initially estimated. That would have a negative impact on the overlay material used for years and led the company to not offer a warranty on that portion of the more than $1 million project.

Additional work to smooth the subsurface would have cost $57,000, Joyce said, although a total number for repair and resurfacing was not immediately available. It would also have extended the closure of the bridge, which began July 10.

“They weren’t going to get that done in the budgeted time frame,” Joyce said, noting the contract was for 21 days, even though the goal was to have the work completed in two weeks. “It could have been another month.”

The resin/aggregate surface “never wore properly; it never adhered properly,” the mayor said. It should also lessen the undulations drivers notice when traveling on the bridge, he said.

“I think there’ll be more people using it,” Joyce said.

Originally, only two-thirds of the surface was going to be overlaid.

“Asphalt’s cheaper than this stuff, so we’re going to pave the whole bridge,” Joyce said.

The hope is the cost will be a wash with the less expensive material covering a larger area, he said.

As of Wednesday, the expectation was that the bridge would reopen Monday as scheduled. However, a final paving will take place two to three weeks later, Joyce said. That will be done one lane at a time, so traffic will be slowed, but the bridge will not be completely shut down.

The article allowing the emergency measure also requires the administration to formally notify council during a meeting. Joyce said that will be done, but he’d already informed Finance Committee Chairman John Reed and Council Vice President Mike Reynolds and would be reaching out to Council President J.R. Carpenter later on Wednesday.

Because the asphalt adds weight to the bridge, council will be asked to amend the ordinance regarding bridge traffic to impose a 10-ton weight limit, Joyce said.

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