By Mannix Porterfield
Bridges scattered along the West Virginia Turnpike aren’t falling down, like the fabled London span in the celebrated nursery rhyme, but they are showing their age.
In fact, there are 116 spans spread along the 88-mile toll road, and it’s going to cost money to keep them fit, the West Virginia Parkways Authority learned Thursday.
Consulting engineer Randy Epperly said the problem with maintaining bridges cannot be deferred much longer.
“There’s never been any structural overlays on any of the 116 bridges,” he told the road’s governing board.
Within the next few years, he said, the Turnpike must either perform the overlays or replace the decks outright.
“They’re not going to last forever,” he cautioned.
While some were erected when the Turnpike was constructed in the early 1950s, many were put up when the road was expanded to four-lane, Interstate standards.
“What is alarming to me is they’re all approaching that (age) about the same time,” Manager Greg Barr said.
Even with a plan to put the Turnpike into the board’s goal of having 80 percent of the highway in “good to very good” shape by 2019, Epperly said maintenance will remain an on-going obligation.
“My concern is when we start looking at these bridge decks,” the engineer said, adding he wants to see some tests run to ascertain how much salt has accumulated in the spans.
In another matter, the authority agreed to place a plaque at the new State Police detachment at the Charleston exit of the Turnpike, honoring the late board member Cameron Lewis of Beckley.
Lewis was praised as a strong supporter of Troop 7 and was instrumental in getting approval to construct its new headquarters.
During another discussion, board member Victor Grigoraci wondered why the newly paved portions of the road remain a mite bumpy.
Maintenance director Jim Meadows explained that the resurfacing is actually a four-phase operation, and the uncomfortable ride Grigoraci experienced is understandable, since only two portions of the sectional work have been completed.
On another issue, Barr announced that showers for truckers soon will be restored at the Beckley plaza in an agreement with HMS Hosts.
Showers were suspended a couple of years ago following complaints of improprieties that involved hookers and drug traffickers. Before the water was shut off, showers had been offered at the Beckley rest stop some 17 years.
Barr began a move a year ago to have the showers restored, pointing out that truck drivers put up almost half of the road’s revenue.
Once the service is back on line, Barr said showers would be available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day of the week.