Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge
The Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge is a closed roadway crossing of the Ohio River between Benwood, West Virginia and Bellaire, Ohio.
Designed by the J.E. Greiner & Company, the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge opened on December 22, 1926 1 5 7 at the cost of $1.5 million. 5 7 Requiring seven million tons of structural steel, it took 18 months to build 4 with only one death reported during construction, when Fred Morning fell from a pier on the Benwood, West Virginia side to the ground below on June 12. 1 The two-lane roadway deck included provisions for streetcars, although those were never put into operation.
Over 7,000 automobiles and pedestrians crossed the crossing on its opening day. Due to the large expense undertaken on the construction of the span, a toll of five cents was required, which was not raised for 45 years.
On July 4, 1927, a wedding took place on the span with the public invited. 1
In 1971, the toll was increased to 25 cents one-way, with a round-trip costing 40 cents. It was raised to 50 cents in 1984. 1 5 7
In November 1990, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) paid $2.1 million towards the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge’s owners for the removal approach ramp from downtown Bellaire. 1 5 ODOT required the demolition of the approach for the completion of the Ohio Route 7 expressway around the city.
In March 1991, the now-closed crossing was sold to Roger Barack who intended to continue the bridge’s purpose of carrying automobiles and pedestrians over the river. 5 ODOT closed the Bellaire approach on May 1 in preparation for its removal, although Barack wanted to have a new approach ramp built to connect to Bellaire. 1
ODOT secured $895,000 for the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge’s demolition, but additional funding towards the project was never secured. In 2002, Benwood officials asked the state of Ohio to demolish the bridge as debris was littering a roadway below.
U.S. Representative Bob Ney obtained a $1.7 million grant to demolish the Bellaire Bridge in 2005, but it came with controversy: Ney received $6,000 in campaign donations from Barack and had rented an office for $1,800 that was owned by Barack. In addition, Ney nominated Barack’s son for an Air Force Academy Appointment. 1
Barack supposedly sold the Bellaire Bridge for $1 8 in May 2010 to Eric Kelly, operator of Advanced Explosives Demolition, a company known for its television program “The Imploders.” 4 Newton Falls, Ohio based Delta Demolition stated that preparations for demolition were underway and that Advanced Explosives enlisted Delta’s assistance with the process. The U.S. Coast Guard had not received formal notification that the bridge had been sold to Kelly or that the bridge would be demolished. 5
Lee Chaklos, a partner with Delta Demolition, denied being the owner of the Bellaire Bridge, and that Barack was still the owner of the beleaguered crossing. 5 Advanced Explosives filed a legal complaint in the Kootenai County, Idaho court against Delta Demolition and KDC Investment in September regarding ownership of the bridge. 8