Wheeling Suspension Bridge, oldest of its kind in use, closed after cable breaks

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Engineers could know by day's end what caused a cable to snap Saturday on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge in West Virginia -- the oldest vehicular suspension bridge still in use.

The diagonal cable is one of several used to keep the 148-year-old bridge from swaying in high winds, state Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker said. But the cable is not load-bearing and engineers believe it can be repaired, he said.

"It very well could have continued to hold traffic," Mr. Walker said. "But for safety and cautionary purposes, we closed it."

It's not clear what caused the cable to break on the 1,000-foot bridge, which links the city to Wheeling Island and the popular hotel, racetrack and casino there.

Meantime, drivers must seek the only alternate route to the island, via the Fort Henry Bridge, Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Walker said it's too early to say how long the bridge might be closed.

"I think it'll be for a while," he said.

Engineers on the bridge today expect to learn more.

The bridge was built in 1849, before it was damaged by a windstorm five years later and rebuilt in 1865.

In 2010, a car crashed and took out several sections of sidewalk, damaging the decking and hand railing, Mr. Walker said.

mobilehome - breaking - region - Transportation

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede. First Published March 4, 2013 12:15 AM


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