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Bridge to Ashland, Ky., may remain closed over the holiday

Published 9:58am Friday, May 24, 2013

ASHLAND, Ky. — To say the traffic Thursday in Ironton was heavier than normal may be a bit of an understatement.

By lunchtime, South Fourth Street was backed up with cars trying to make the left turn onto Adams Street to get to the Ironton-Russell Bridge, the nearest avenue crossing over the Ohio River because of the morning closure of the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge.

The one-way span that connects to Ashland at 12th Street was shut down as a safety precaution after the structure suffered damage from a recent automobile crash.

Those hoping for a quick fix for the Memorial Day weekend may be left disappointed.

Allen Blair, public information officer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 9, said Tri-State residents should plan for the bridge to remain closed for the holiday.

“Essentially right now, our priority is to get this bridge opened up to as much traffic as possible as quickly as possible. And that may not happen for the Memorial Day weekend,” Blair said. “If we happen to work something out then that would be great but in the meantime, people should plan for it to be closed.”

The bridge sustained damage Tuesday when the span was struck by a vehicle on the Ohio approach. Inspectors responded to examine the damaged steel beams and determined that the bridge could remain open to traffic but that the weight of vehicles crossing the bridge would be restricted to 10 tons.

Despite the weight restriction, Blair said heavy vehicles continued to use the bridge, prompting the Thursday morning closure.

“We watched the traffic and continued to do an analysis of the bridge from an engineering standpoint and what happens when traffic crosses it, what happens to the bridge and to the damaged beam,” Blair said. “What we found was that the risk was too much. We saw some truck traffic go across it that was greater than 10 tons. The safest course of action was to close the bridge.”

In addition to a permanent repair plan, the KYTC is looking at several short-term fixes, Blair said.

One option would be to make the Simeon Willis Memorial Bridge two directions, but Blair said that would take time to implement.

“It would take longer to set up, plus, what kind of issues would that involve in terms of traffic and safety as well as, are there any other solutions that might work?” Blair said.

Another option would be to re-open the 12th Street Bridge to passenger cars only and somehow block any traffic that is more than 10 tons.

For now, traffic may detour using several routes to reach Ashland:

— From Portsmouth, east on U.S. 52, cross the Jesse Stuart Memorial Bridge at Greenup, Ky., to U.S. 23 south.

— From Chesapeake, west on U.S. 52, cross the Nick Joe Rahall II bridge at Huntington, W.Va., to I-64 west to U.S. 23 north.

— From Ironton, cross the Ironton-Russell Bridge in downtown Ironton to connect with U.S. 23 near Russell.

  1. Jackyl

    What i really cannot believe is that they do not have a crew working on that bridge already , as soon as it happened they should have been rigging it up to repair and keep on it around the clock , all it takes is a good rig operator and 4 good Iron Workers to repair and a new beam , its not like it is a Swiss watch , and it isnt rocket science , just get in there and get it done .

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  2. lrc

    I sat on that bridge for 70 mins last night. They have no idea what they have done to this town in closing the Ashland bridge. The are around the Russell bridge is already chaos due the construction of the new bridge. If you think it is cray now, wait until Monday, Memorial Day. I have to work, but even if I did have it off, I would not go near the downtown area.

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  3. bleedingheart

    I find it puzzling that they cannot control 10 ton trucks from crossing the bridge. Why not have C.G. police, State Highway Patrol, and/or Sheriff’s Dept. take turns patrolling the bridge for big trucks? Stop them before they cross the bridge, then fine the heck out of them for ignoring the law and entering the ramp. It would only take a couple of times until the trucks got wise. Then the bridge could be open for cars.

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  4. Julie

    So, I wanna know who the genius were who decided it was safer to send bumper to bumper traffic across the russell bridge that has been deemed unsafe and shut down several times?!?! That bridge cannot handle this much traffic. It’s really sad that our DOT’s didn’t consider that….go figure.

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