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Cast your vote on the city bridge issue

The Ironton-Russell Bridge debate has galvanized area residents – and hardened their resolve – to keep a proposed new bridge as close to the downtown area as possible.

Saturday, September 11, 1999

The Ironton-Russell Bridge debate has galvanized area residents – and hardened their resolve – to keep a proposed new bridge as close to the downtown area as possible.

For decades, the existing bridge has served residents well, and it has been a vital link between Ironton and Russell. It has allowed commerce to flow freely, and it has kept cash registers ringing on both sides of the Ohio River.

At one time in the early days of its proud history, the bridge was the sole link between Ohio and Kentucky for hundreds of miles. Now, bridges dot the landscape up and down the Ohio River.

In spite of the Ironton-Russell Bridge’s quirks, such as its waffle-weave floor that rattles your vehicle as you cross the river and the span’s unique ramps to get on and off the structure, it has served the area well. Residents and businesses depend on the bridge.

Now, we are faced with options that do not set well with most folks on the Ohio side of the river.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has offered some potential locations for a new bridge that would disrupt long-standing neighborhoods and could create traffic problems we can’t even begin to imagine at this stage. Those options also, for the most part, would throw established traffic patterns to the wind. Motorists – and pedestrians, too, for that matter – have come to depend on the ease of commerce between downtown Ironton and downtown Russell. Many of these new plans ignore those long-standing patterns and the needs of area residents.

The Ironton Business Association, along with many elected city leaders, are spearheading an important effort to keep the bridge as close to its present location as possible.

A town meeting was held last week, and a number of residents and business-owners stepped forward and made their concerns known.

Ironton City Council has made the bridge’s new site a high priority – and rightly so.

This is an issue whose outcome could affect generations of Southern Ohio residents. The existing bridge has lasted more than 75 years, and the new one should last almost until the year 2100.

This is too important a decision to let others pick for us. If we sit back and depend on a few voices to represent us, it is unlikely ODOT will give us the level of cooperation we need and deserve.

The collective voices of all of us can make a real difference.

ODOT may have its own site preferences, but those preferences stand a better chance of being modified to fit our own if we all take an active stand.

Get involved. If you’d like more information on how to help, contact Joe Unger at Unger’s Shoe Store, 532-5954, or Lou Pyles, co-president of the Ironton Business Association, 533-3826.

If you would like to comment, you also may do so by participating in a reader participation poll on The Tribune’s website -www.irontontribune.com. All the information will be passed along immediately to the IBA and members of the Ironton City Council.

If we don’t get involved and become part of the solution, the potential problems that will result from drastically altering the bridge’s location could haunt residents for generations to come.

Jennifer Allen is publisher of The Ironton Tribune.