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Nitro-St. Albans bridge to be blasted down

ST. ALBANS. W.Va. -- They just don't build bridges like they used to, and despite its reputation as a creaking, frightening span, the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge between Nitro and St. Albans has proved tougher to bring down than contractors expected.

Contractors are removing the superstructure and decking on the bridge. They plan to replace the old bridge with a new span built on the existing bridge piers. The span across the Kanawha River is expected to be closed until November.

However, despite plans to cut the old superstructure up and remove it in sections, contractors have instead decided to bring it down with explosives.

"The pieces were heavier than they thought," said Carrie Bly, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

Workers cut down the first 50-foot section of the center of the bridge earlier this month, in a process that took far longer than anticipated. Bly said contractors had planned to disassemble the entire bridge in 50-foot sections for demolition, but balked at the weight once they cut out the first piece.

They then decided to try to cut out 25-foot sections of the bridge instead, Bly said, but decided that would take too long.

Instead, contractors will blow up the ends of the bridge, she said. The St. Albans side of the span will be dropped into the river at 10 a.m. March 1.

Bly said the Nitro side of the bridge will be dropped at 10 a.m. March 8. The best view of the demolition should be from the St. Albans roadside park along U.S. 60.

"It should really only affect river traffic while [the explosions] are going on," Bly said. She said debris from the bridge will be confined to the riverbanks, so barge traffic should be able to keep using the river channel after the span is dropped.

Bly did not yet know if a contest would be held to allow someone to push a button to detonate the explosives.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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