What is it going to take to keep buses and big trucks off the irreplaceable Wheeling Suspension Bridge? Do we need to have the West Virginia National Guard station armed troops at both ends of the span?

Sometimes it seems drastic measures may be necessary. Just a few days ago, another bus driver decided to ignore weight limit signs displayed prominently on the bridge’s approaches. He drove his bus – possibly weighing 20 tons – past warnings of a ban on vehicles weighing more than two tons.

That prompted state Division of Highways officials to close the bridge, pending an inspection to determine if it sustained any damage. As of this morning, the span remained shut down.

The bus driver received citations from police, but, to judge by the fact he was far from the first person to ignore the signs, such penalties do little good. Fines for driving overweight vehicles onto the bridge are limited to no more than $1,600.

Clearly, more needs to be done. If drastic measures such as impounding vehicles and state action to increase fines are needed, so be it. Both drivers and the owners of companies for which they work should be held responsible. And police should post signs encouraging drivers of overweight vehicles to turn around before going onto the bridge, even if that means blocking traffic.

The Suspension Bridge is unique. It cannot be replaced. It simply must be protected.

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