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Residents, businesses discuss bridge

Like Lawless, hundreds of Ironton and Russell residents viewed four construction options Tuesday for a new bridge spanning the Ohio River.

Wednesday, September 01, 1999

Like Lawless, hundreds of Ironton and Russell residents viewed four construction options Tuesday for a new bridge spanning the Ohio River.

Business owners from both cities favored plans with the least impact to downtown trade, while homeowners favored a new bridge that left their house intact, said officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation, the host of the four-hour public meeting.

Roxie Elliott of Etna Street in Russell and other attendees wanted a new one built upriver for heavy traffic, like delivery trucks.

"I don’t think another one would hurt the downtowns, but I think for car traffic and businesses the old one should be left open," Mrs. Elliott said.

Others rejected all options – just leave the old one in place, they said.

"I can’t see any point because it’s structurally sound," said Bill Thomas of Ironton, a retired structural engineer.

Listing area bridges still in use that were built in the 1930s and before, Thomas said the existing one should be maintained.

"They did major work to it in 1992-93, so I can’t see the need for a new bridge unless someone wants a specific bridge in a specific place," he said.

Ironton’s downtown business owners like a new bridge corridor that parallels the old bridge, and if both are kept open, so much the better, said Joe Unger of Unger’s Shoes.

But keeping the old bridge, in any form, is not an option, ODOT spokesperson Holly Snedecor-Gray said.

"It would be fantastic but extremely costly and nobody would want to police it," she said. "How would you keep the trucks off the new one?"

The old bridge is too narrow and does not have the required clearance, according to state standards, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

"It costs the state about 700,000 to 800,000 to maintain and would cost $25 million to $35 million to rehab," she said.

A new bridge would cost about $30 million to $35 million.

And the old one could remain open for most of the two-year construction of that new bridge, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

"We want to build a bridge where people want," she said. "But, then again, we don’t want to build a bridge that does not benefit traffic flow."

John McCandless an engineer with Baker and Associates of Columbus, the company designing a new bridge, agreed.

"The purpose in replacing the existing structure is a need to serve the local traffic demand," McCandless said. "We want to know where the people think that demand is."

Downtown businesses want a location like the existing one, while the hospitals or schools would favor one that links Mastin Avenue in Ohio with Ashland Drive in Kentucky, he said.

A decision will impact someone no matter what happens, so the issue becomes what will happen during construction, said Tim Selb of Shamrock Carryout.

"Do you take it on the chin and close it down for two years and when it reopens you have (business) traffic for a lifetime." Selb said. "Or, if you move it, you don’t know what kind of traffic you will get."

A decision on the 1,000-foot area for a new bridge, called a corridor, will likely come by the end of the year, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. Another public meeting, and a decision on an option within that corridor, will come early next year, she said.

The comment period is open for at least two more weeks on the four options:

– Corridor A: Connecting the area of Railroad and Fourth streets in Ironton to Ferry and Bellefonte streets in Russell.

– Corridor B: Centered on the bridge’s existing location, but likely without the 90-degree on- and off-ramps, officials said.

– Corridor C: Connecting the area of Mulberry and Fourth streets with the Bellefonte Street turn onto U.S. 23 in Kentucky.

– Corridor D: Connecting the Mastin Avenue area to the Ashland Drive and U.S. 23 intersection.

Comments can be mailed, by Sept. 10, to Baker and Associates, P.O. Box 282011, Columbus, Ohio, 43228.

The toll-free project comments hotline is 1-877-47BRIDGE.