A bridge in the Bendale area may be closing soon, and Lewis County authorities are taking steps to prepare.
The Larry S. Heater Memorial Bridge is more than 50 years old. During that time it's deteriorated to the point that it's now considered to be structurally deficient, and in need of replacement. Since the bridge carries Route 19, county authorities are preparing to keep emergency services running as fast as possible without that major route available.
"Concerns I have, there could be a delay in the response for emergency providers, and with planning I think the agencies can work through that. There'll be a little delay, but not too much," said Bill Rowan, director of the Lewis County Office of Emergency Management.
Although the bridge is a few miles out of Weston, there's still a lot of traffic that will need to get rerouted around it. Almost three thousand vehicles cross it every day, but the need to fix the structure is too great to ignore.
"I understand that, but the bridge is so heavily used and so much heavy traffic, that we don't have any choice but to do something, and I'm sure that's the reason the Department of Highways decided to do it now," said Lewis County Commission President Pat Boyle.
In the meantime Rowan said he'll meet with first responders throughout the county to be sure they minimize any delays from the replacement.
"We'll just have to sit down with the agencies and do a little planning and reorganization in the way we dispatch calls, and probably send more companies, emergency companies on a structure fire, and so on and so forth," said Rowan.
The Division of Highways took public comments on the project at a meeting at the Lewis County High School. You can send your comments in writing to the DOH at the address below. Comments are due by March 19.
Send your comments to:
Gregory Bailey, P.E., Director, Engineering Division
West Virginia Division of Highways
Capitol Complex Building Five, Room 317
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305-0430