As crews prepare to put in place the 830-foot-long main span of a 1,800-foot link between Brilliant and an area about a mile south of Wellsburg, local leaders and others are reflecting on the future bridge’s impact on their communities.
“We’re really excited to see what the future holds and hopefully it will bring some more businesses into Brilliant,” said Allison Yanssens, one of three trustees who oversee Wells Township, whose 27.1 square miles in southern Jefferson County include the unincorporated community.
Plans call for the bridge to extend from W.Va. 2 to the intersection of Third and Cleaver streets in Brilliant, from which vehicles may access Ohio 7.
Yanssens said though no plans have been officially announced, some properties have been purchased by parties who expect the new bridge to bring more people to the area.
She conceded the project has meant significant changes for some residents.
One homeowner has been paid to move through eminent domain, and some neighbors have chosen to relocate, she noted.
She said in addition to experiencing a larger flow of traffic at the intersection, some residents will lose their on-street parking.
But Yanssens said there also are a fair number of residents who look to the bridge as an avenue for daily work commutes not delayed by construction projects along nearby Ohio 7.
Such construction often has been spurred by rock slides from the adjacent hillside at both ends of the township.
Rock slides also aren’t uncommon along the section of W.Va. 2 that runs through southern Brooke County.
Supporters of the new bridge have noted traffic may be diverted onto it on such occasions.
It’s a notion not lost on Wells Township residents, said Yanssens.
“Absolutely, there’s a sense of security in having another transportation route,” she said.
Becky Uhlly, mayor of nearby Beech Bottom, said of the bridge, “I just think it’s going to bring a lot of interest into this area.”
Uhlly noted there’s already a steady flow of traffic through the village on W.Va. 2 and she hopes it will spur the establishment of a gas station and grocery store for residents and passersby and attract new businesses to the Beech Bottom Industrial Park and about 95 acres of developable land north of it.
Marvin Six, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle — which co-owns the industrial park — said the future span has boosted efforts to attract new businesses to the area.
“Whenever we talk to prospects, they always ask when the bridge will be done,” Six said, adding, “They like the proximity of a four-lane highway and see it (the new bridge) as a big plus.”
Six added that access to the span will ease the transport of materials to businesses at the industrial park, opening opportunities for expansion, while creating a larger pool of potential employees needed by new businesses.
Luke Diserio, president of American Muscle Docks and Fabrication of Wellsburg, agreed, saying, “My biggest hope is it allows more potential employees to have better access to our business.”
Diserio said the business, located on W.Va. 27, already has benefited from the bridge, having supplied several hundreds of thousands of dollars in materials for its construction.
Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis noted the idea of a bridge between Wellsburg and Brilliant dates back many years.
He recalls, as a fourth-grader in 1968, being assigned to write a letter petitioning the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd for such a span.
He noted that more than 40 years later, Byrd and former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller secured $18 million for planning and initial construction for the bridge. Asked about his reasoning for the span, as a youth, Ennis said, “My thinking then was of its pure convenience. But being an elected official years later, I can see numerous opportunities economically.”
Ennis said in addition to attracting new businesses to the Wellsburg and Beech Bottom areas, the bridge may spur new interest in the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport not far south of it and future widening of nearby Route 2.
“I think with the bridge being there, it enhances the opportunity for Route 2 expansion,” he said, adding that until then, the span will improve the flow of traffic through the busy two-lane highway. “I think you’re going to see a huge snowball effect,” said Ennis.