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Bridge might be left open

Even if Corridor B is chosen as the site for the new Ironton-Russell Bridge, it is possible to leave the current bridge open during construction, Ohio Department of Transportation Officials said Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

Even if Corridor B is chosen as the site for the new Ironton-Russell Bridge, it is possible to leave the current bridge open during construction, Ohio Department of Transportation Officials said Tuesday.

"We’ve reached a point where we’ve got to do something with that bridge," said Larry Hill, ODOT District 9 planning administrator. "The money is there to either rehabilitate or replace that bridge, and if we replace it, at least we have the option to leave the old bridge open while we’re building the new one."

Hill confirmed during an information meeting for government stakeholders and property owners at Ohio University Southern Campus that within the 1000-foot preliminary site of Corridor B, there is enough room to work on a new bridge without closing the current one.

But, officials are still far from making a decision – and the public will be included in the process.

"Everyone will be brought into the process all the way through," said Timothy Hill, office of environmental studies administrator for ODOT District 9. "It’s very important that we have that element."

So far, however, the public and local government input ODOT has received from both sides of the river has contained opposing information.

Ironton residents who sent information in during ODOT’s 10-day open forum showed they want to see the new bridge built in the downtown corridors, A or B. But, Russell residents, including a petition signed by more than 300 people, are asking for corridor C or D, according to information compiled by District 9.

Both corridors A and C are the most popular of the four, officials said.

"We don’t have the solution – we wish that we did," he said. "What we have is a process designed to meet all the needs in the best possible manner."

Ironton City Council members sent a resolution to ODOT rejecting all four corridors in their current form, but most members of the Ironton Business Association would be happy with Corridor B if the current bridge is indeed left open during construction, according to information given at an IBA public meeting last month.

Simply repairing and remodeling the existing bridge - another option asked for by residents and some businessowners –  could cost as much as building a new bridge, said Greg Beard, District 9 studies engineer.

The improvements needed on the old bridge to bring it up to minimum standards could cost $33 million and would include:

– Creating a new two-lane roadway and concrete deck.

– Ensuring vertical clearance over the roadway.

–  Adding new traffic railings.

– Replacing the sidewalk and railings outside of the truss structure.

– Strengthening or replacing 37 percent of the truss members.

– Reconstructing members with fatigue-prone details.

– Clearing and painting existing structural steel.

– Repairing existing deteriorated concrete.

–  Constructing a new approach structure changing the alignment.

– Inputting a new navigation and roadway lighting system.

During these extensive repairs, the bridge would be closed to traffic for about two years and costs could actually increase because matching the 1922 steel pieces could mean having them specially made, Beard added.

None of the possibilities should cause too much concern on the part of the residents or local officials, however, Hill said. ODOT officials are engaged in a multi-step process, the current portion of which could take up to 24 months, he said.

In the meantime, Russell City Council member Sissy Shaffer said if the 77-year-old bridge is in such disrepair as to receive a four out of nine on a safety rating, signage should be added to warn travelers.

"It might be nice to get that posted," Ms. Shaffer said. "We’ve got a four out of nine, so we don’t have far to go before it gets worse. I might not travel that bridge so often if I had known that before."