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I-64 bridge work only a temporary fix

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Emergency repair work that began on the Interstate 64 Kanawha River bridge in Charleston Wednesday is designed to provide only a temporary fix until a complete overhaul of the bridge takes place next year.

The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday afternoon it needed to begin immediate repair work on the Eugene A. Carter Memorial Bridge, which is often referred to as the Fort Hill bridge.

Department spokeswoman Carrie Bly said bridge inspectors had become concerned about some cracks and holes that had developed in the westbound lanes of the bridge.

Inspectors said the defects could pose serious problems, especially if snow crews began plowing and treating the road surface.

"If they're not patched up, then when the plow goes through there again, it's going to become a bigger problem," Bly said.

In addition to plow damage to the road surface, the rock salt used to treat the road can also pose a problem.

Should salt get through the cracks in the road, it can rust and erode the metal superstructure underneath the bridge deck.

With winter just around the corner, Bly said maintenance officials decided to shut down two lanes Wednesday evening to patch some areas. Crews are expected to shut down the two right westbound lanes some time next week.

That shutdown will include closing the Virginia Street on-ramp and Oakwood Road off-ramp on either side of the bridge.

Crews will work at night to cut down on traffic jams during the day.

But the patching is just a temporary fix.

Next year, the bridge will undergo a complete deck overhaul.

"It will encompass milling of the existing surface, repairs as required, overlay of the bridge deck with latex modified concrete and replacement of the expansion joints," Bly said.

She said the work is the final portion of the $23 million construction project to upgrade portions of I-64 and I-77 in Charleston that began earlier this year. The work so far has focused on interstate areas around downtown Charleston.

Crews are replacing the traditional concrete surface with the latex-modified concrete, which is designed to be more durable and less vulnerable to chemical and salt treatments.

While the Eugene A. Carter Memorial Bridge underwent an extensive repainting and overhaul in 2010 and early 2011, Bly said there is more work to be done.

She said with more than 110,000 vehicles crossing it each day, the span is the most highly trafficked bridge in the state, and that leads to a lot of wear and tear.

The bridge's most vulnerable points are around its expansion joints, which allow the structure to expand and contract during hot and cold periods.

"You'll notice with bridges that at the joints connecting it to the road, as it's moving and expanding, then cracks start to develop," Bly said. "It's just that thing is constantly evolving and there are always going to be problems that are going to arise."

The work on the bridge deck is expected to begin next April.

Bly said the work would be done during the overnight hours, just as all other construction work associated with the project has been done this year.  

Crews are expected to finish the work by August.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.

 


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