PARKERSBURG — The Memorial Bridge won’t reopen to traffic until its $50 million rehabilitation project is complete, but that date has been pushed back to Aug. 31, 2023.
It also means the operations and maintenance agreement with the City of Parkersburg is no longer needed, and the Parkersburg City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night to end it.
Measurement on the agenda for the 7:30 p.m. meeting “replaces the former operating agreement and transfers all operations and ownership to United Bridge Partners”, said Mayor Tom Joyce.
The city had continued to pay the tax collectors and operate the bridge, then was reimbursed by Parkersburg Bridge Partners, the local subsidiary of UBP.
Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the useful life of the bridge is to be extended by at least another 50 years. The company embarked on a massive effort to remove and replace the bridge deck; apply a new paint and coating system; repair the steel superstructure, pillars and concrete columns; and more.
This work was originally scheduled to be completed in November 2023, but according to documents attached to the board’s agenda released Thursday, the new scheduled completion date is August 31, 2023.
“We have now accelerated the opening of the bridge”, said Ken Szeliga, executive vice president of construction and operations for United Bridge Partners.
The delay has been shortened because traffic no longer crosses the bridge.
The bridge was closed from mid-March to late April for initial work, but traffic resumed with an open lane so vehicles could take turns east and west.
In August, the company announced that the bridge would go one-way from West Virginia to Belpre because motorists were ignoring the traffic pattern and signals, which sometimes resulted in traffic moving in opposite directions in the same way at the same time. About a week later, the decision was made to shut it down indefinitely.
“It’s really become a safety issue, not just for our workers but also for the traveling public,” Szeliga said.
People kept trying to cross the bridge from the closed side, even with uniformed police stationed there, he said.
While the bridge was closed, Joyce said the 27 part-time toll collectors continued to be paid, based on their average hours. Parkersburg Bridge Partners will reimburse the city for those wages, in addition to covering unemployment benefits up to $50,000, according to the proposed termination agreement.
Joyce said he also plans to ask the board to approve a severance package for part-time employees, who expect to continue working until the end of next year.
“I’m going to propose it because I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
The city had a full-time employee who worked at the bridge. She participated in various tasks under the supervision of the director of public works and the city intends to keep her, Joyce said.
Szeliga said the company plans to work with the city to develop a refund or credit program for outstanding bridge tickets, but no details have been finalized.
“We understand that there are a number of people who purchased these tickets and we must honor them,” he said.
The price of a single trip across the bridge is expected to drop from 50 cents to at least $1 when the bridge reopens. Tolls will be assessed electronically.