Musings in Ohio: exploring the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge.
It’s not every day that you come across an abandoned bridge over the Ohio River.
Deteriorating above the Ohio River since it closed in 1991, the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge connected Bellaire, Ohio to Benwood, West Virginia. The two-lane cantilever span was completed in 18 months and opened in 1926 to much fanfare, utilizing 7 million tons of steel and realizing a link between the two busy, industrial communities.
Seven-thousand vehicles crossed the bridge on the first day alone, which was the sole fixed crossing between Parkersburg and Wheeling, West Virginia. The Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge carried a modest nickel toll, which remained in effect at that rate for 45 years, when it was raised to a quarter in 1971. Surprisingly, the span only began losing money beginning in 1984, and as a result, the toll was raised to 50 cents.
Portions of the movie, Silence of the Lambs, was filmed on the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge, and numerous weddings were held on the span.
In 1991, the bridge was closed to traffic when the Ohio Department of Transportation removed the Bellaire, Ohio approach ramp to make way for the Ohio State Route 7 freeway. The department paid the bridge corporation $2.1 million.
Not all was lost for the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge, as it was subsequently sold to Roger Barack, who intended to reuse the span for transportation — most likely, to rebuild the approach ramp and have it functioning as a viable crossing. No work was ever completed, and later, money was set aside for demolition.
Controversies ensued in later years pertaining to the demolition of the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge. U.S. Representative Bob Ney obtained a grant to demolish the crossing, however, Ney received campaign donations from Barack and rented an office from Barack that led to conflict of interest accusations. In addition, Ney nominated Barack’s son for an Air Force Academy Appointment. The span was sold in May 2010 to Advanced Explosives Demolition, who is known for their television program, The Imploders. The company reported that preparations for tear-down were underway, and enlisted Delta Demolition for help.
But that was with controversy as well.
The U.S. Coast Guard had not received notification of the sale, or of the bridge status. The demolition plans must be submitted to the Coast Guard for approval, in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Delta Demolition later denied being the owner of the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge, and noted that Barack was still the owner of the bridge. Two days later, Barack said that it had been sold to Advanced Explosives Demolition. More recently, Advanced Explosives Demolition filed a legal complaint in Idaho against Delta Demolition and KDC Investment – a company created that was when Advanced Explosives Demolition sold the bridge to Delta Demolition.
On one warm summer night, I decided to check out the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge. Remaining on the crossing were vintage hand-painted signage, and the toll booths that dangle precariously on the bridge.
It is sad to remark that the bridge, which is structurally sound, has visually deteriorated to the point that it “necessitates” removal. The once silver paint has become a shade of black, and the asphalt pavement sports weeds and trees. It doesn’t help matters that the Ohio approach was removed. Read more on the Bellaire Interstate Toll Bridge at one of my other web-sites, Bridges & Tunnels, and check out the other photographs!