Jennings Randolph Bridge Closed After Failed Inspection

CHESTER, W.Va. – The Jennings Randolph Bridge, which accommodates traffic across the Ohio River between Chester and East Liverpool, Ohio, was closed Monday afternoon after a safety inspection reportedly discovered an issue that needs repaired.

According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation, a consultant engineer was on-site evaluating the next steps for repair, and the bridge is expected to be closed temporarily, although no time frame was given.

When contacted about all four lanes being closed, both East Liverpool police and fire departments said it was due to a “failed inspection,” with no other information available. 

Opened to traffic in 1977, the Jennings Randolph Bridge is the largest Pratt truss bridge in North America, spanning 3,400 feet over the river between the two cities, with a main span of 745 feet, located on U.S. Route 30. 

It replaced the Chester Bridge, which was built in 1897 and torn down in 1967 due to weakened cable anchors after bridges along the river came under closer scrutiny following the tragic collapse in 1967 of the Silver Bridge spanning the river between Gallipolis, Ohio, and Point Pleasant, Ohio, that killed 46 people.

Due to closure of the Jennings Randolph Bridge, traffic traveling in Ohio will detour onto state Route 7 South to U.S. Route 22 East to Weirton, West Virginia, where the nearest bridge crossing the Ohio River is located. 

Local traffic traveling in West Virginia can take West Virginia Route 2 south from Chester to Weirton.

The WVDOT has been in contact with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to advise drivers in those states of these detours.

Not addressed by the WVDOT was the ability to detour across the Wayne Six Toll Bridge, which spans the river from East Liverpool to the Newell, West Virginia, area.

However, soon after closure of the JRB, long lines of rerouted traffic began to form near East Liverpool City Hospital, waiting to cross the toll bridge, which has been in operation for 118 years. 

Originally named the Newell Bridge, it was purchased in 2022 from the former Homer Laughlin China Company by Newell businessman Frank Six, who renamed it in July in honor of his uncle. It is one of only two privately held bridges in West Virginia.

Six said staff presence at the bridge has been increased in light of the Jennings Randolph Bridge closing to ensure overweight vehicles are not permitted to cross and to direct traffic when it becomes congested.

In addition, Six said, if traffic becomes backed up across the toll bridge during busy times, vehicles traveling from West Virginia into East Liverpool will not be charged the toll to create better traffic flow.

Six said, however, that anyone let through without being charged a toll during this time “should feel gratitude and not expect it in the future.”

He said, “We are doing our best to help our friends and neighbors get to where they need to be to the best of our ability.”

Six also asked that drivers be patient and kind to toll takers and other staff members, whom he said are “well-known for their friendly presence to the customers.”

Pictured at top: The Jennings Randolph Bridge was closed Monday after a safety inspection resulted in discovery of a safety issue requiring repair.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.