January 17, 2009 - Leanna Elder had pointed out that the Fort Steuben Bridge has been closed and appears to be doomed. In fact, the bridge has apparently reached the end of its useful life and plans are now in place for its demise. The Ohio DOT has an article about the removal of the Fort Stueben Bridge on its website. The demolition is scheduled to begin in April, 2009 but that is a projected date and might be optimistic.
Acording to the Ohio DOT website, the Veterans Memorial Bridge was built in 1990 to ultimately replace the aging Fort Steuben Bridge.
The demolition of the bridge is not a universally accepted idea. Bicyclists and trail enthusiasts began a campaign back in 2007 to save the bridge in order for it to be the Ohio River crossing for a bike trail that will ultimately run from Washington, D.C. to Indianapolis. The bike trail concept ran into opposition because the Ohio portal access is to Ohio 7. Officials don't want bicycles on Ohio 7 any more than most bicyclists want to be on Ohio 7, a divided expressway.
There have also been discussions about closing the Market Street Bridge, built in 1904, but the closing of both bridges would severely impact traffic flow. For now, the Market Street Bridge is being monitored with no plans for major repairs.
Offcials from West Virginia and Steubenville want to see a replacement bridge built. A 2003 committee proposed a bridge in the Wellsville-Brilliant area (about 7 miles downstream) but apparently, no steps have been taken to build such a structure. According to one WVDOT official, the Fort Steuben Bridge, the Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Market Street Bridge comprise a system, and when one of the bridges is closed, there is a severe negative impact on traffic in the area. The Market Street Bridge reportedly carries 6,300 vehicles per day and the Fort Steuben Bridge carried 3,000 vehicles per day. Those 3,000 cars are now on the Market Street Bridge and Veterans Memorial Bridge. The area on the Ohio side of the river is congested with both vehicle and rail traffic, limiting bridge options.
As is always the case in a large infrastructure project, there is a lot of heartburn and disagreement but it looks likely that the Fort Steuben Bridge is going to come down this year.
You can find more information about the project on a website called UrbanOhio.com that tracked media reports about the proposed demolition.