This bridge may not be the oldest steel arch bridge around, but it is a very large and nevertheless rare example of a historic steel arch bridge. It was built originally for US-40 and later became a part of I-70 when the Interstate Highway System was created. The bridge features riveted construction.
During construction of this bridge, falsework was placed in the river to hold the bridge up until the arch could be connected. Construction photos of the bridge are available here. The bridge cost $6,800,000 to construct.
A rather disappointing 2005 law excluded the Interstate Highway System and all associated bridges from Section 106 / Section 4(f) protections for historic bridges. The Fort Henry Bridge got lucky however. This bridge is is one of a select number of Interstate Highway Bridges considered to be nationally significant and it has been placed on a list of bridges that are still protected by Section 106 / Section 4(f) despite the exclusion law.
Erik D. Neely shared the following additional information about this bridge:
The Fort McHenry Bridge was originally constructed to carry US 250 over the Ohio River. As this bridge was being constructed, interstate 70 was being designed. The engineer's exploited the tunnels and bridge to facilitate construction of the interstate. US 40 was not rerouted over the Fort McHenry Bridge until the 70s. After the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was deemed outdated for modern vehicular traffic in the 1930's, a new steel suspension bridge was built a block upstream from the original suspension bridge. This bridge was then deemed unsafe after a traffic accident that sheared off some structural part of the bridge. This is when it was decided to merge US 40 onto the Fort McHenry bridge and demolish the damaged bridge due to repair costs.
Information and Findings From Federal Highway Administration
Discussion of Bridge
Opened to traffic with fanfare in September 1955, the Fort Henry Bridge is a tied-arch design with a main span of 580 feet. Built at a cost of $6,800,000, the bridge represented a great leap forward for road transportation in the Wheeling area. It was part of a larger transportation plan for US 40 prepared by the engineering firm of Howard, Needles, Tammen, and Bergendoff. At the time of construction, the bridge was only the second tied arch over the Ohio River.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes, Section 106 and Section (4f) Must Be Conducted For Projects Involving This Bridge
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
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