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Bridge reopens to delight of area businesses

CHESAPEAKE —

“We were so excited last night, my husband and I went, ‘Wow, it’s going to open,’” Britani Burke said Saturday, recalling a conversation she had had with her husband the night before.

“It” was the Nick Joe Rahall Bridge linking the South Point-Chesapeake area with West Huntington, W.Va.

The span was closed May 29 for repairs that were expected to last approximately a month, but when workers with the Shelly Company found more extensive deterioration than anticipated, the reopening of the bridge was delayed until Friday evening.

It’s reopening was welcome news to business operators in the area who said they had seen a drop in foot traffic when the bridge was closed.

“We lost a sale the other day, “ said Jenny Ofield, who owns J&J Gun and Supply along with her husband, Jim. “This man said he didn’t want to go through town to get here, it was too much hassle. If they traveled on I-64 to get here (from West Virginia) they had to find an alternate route.”

Jim Ofield agreed.

“It was just out of their way,” he said. “It was inconvenient for a lot of people to hit the other bridge.”

Burke, co-owner of Sun Salon in the Burlington, said at first, business dropped because many of her patrons are Mountain State residents.

Then some Burlington area residents who used to travel to West Virginia to tanning salons decided to give her place a try rather than find an alternate route across the river.

“It didn’t even out but it helped,” Burke said.

She said she has talked to some of the employees at other area businesses and all have had the same story to tell: The bridge closure has cost them money.

“We realize the impact this project has had on the region and we appreciate everyone’s patience,” Ohio Department Of Transportation District 9 Deputy Director James Brushart said. “However, it was essential that these repairs were made correctly for the safety of the traveling public, and the extended time to do so was warranted.”

While the bridge is open to traffic, motorists will encounter lane restrictions in the coming weeks as other finishing work will be completed on the bridge decks and the next phase of the total project will progress to resurfacing U.S. 52 and State Route 7.

Traffic on the bridge decks, however, will be maintained by flaggers as needed, and traffic on U.S. 52 and State Route 7 will be maintained in a minimum of one lane in each direction.

The Shelly Company of Thornville, Ohio, was awarded the $4.6 million contract to resurface approximately 14 miles of roadway and repair bridges on these and other routes. The scheduled completion date for all work is Oct. 31.