• 57°

ODOT addresses bridge concerns

RUSSELL, Ky.

Wednesday, October 27, 1999

RUSSELL, Ky. – Area residents quizzed Ohio transportation officials again Tuesday about why an Ironton-Russell Bridge replacement is necessary, even while crews placed stress sensors on the aging structure.

"It’s functionally obsolete. In other words, it’s not built for today’s traffic," Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 spokesperson Holly Snedecor-Gray told East Greenup Kiwanis Club and Ironton Area Kiwanis Club members and guests.

Some residents remarked that the 1920s-era bridge was meant for foot and light traffic only and that maintaining it seemed like a viable option for now.

But if the state waits until the bridge is so deteriorated that it has to be replaced quickly, then it likely would have to close for two years during construction, no matter what the location, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

"And the funding is guaranteed now, not later," she said. "We can’t hold on to the money forever."

ODOT planner Larry Hill answered questions about how the cost of the future project will influence the new bridge’s placement.

"To avoid traffic problems or to miss five houses by increasing it a million dollars then we would spend that," Hill said.

And linking U.S. 23 in Kentucky with U.S. 52 in Ohio could be a factor that would influence a decision, but not on ODOT’s part, he said.

That’s a possibility for the future if enough people like the idea, Hill said. But there are no plans for that during this construction.

Hill also reiterated that ODOT will listen to everyone’s comments, from both sides of the river.

"The whole process is to start large and weed out (the corridors) to a usable area and find as much consensus as we can but the purpose is not to build an additional river crossing," he said.

The state wants to maintain the connection between the two towns but does not favor two bridges because that would double maintenance costs, Hill said.

"Is there a better location, 77 years later?," he said. "That’s up to the people, who must decide."

Although ODOT’s 403 comments show a preference for placing the bridge in Corridor B, the same area as the current one, Russell residents complained that a petition signed by 300 people, who favor a bridge option outside the two downtowns, was not counted as it should have been.

Meanwhile, ODOT has begun to keep close tabs on the structural condition of the current bridge.

Staff and students from the University of Cincinnati Infrastructure Institute helped ODOT install permanent strain gauges on various steel supports of the bridge Tuesday.

The work will continue through Thursday, and again Nov. 2-4. Lane restrictions likely will occur during the work.

By measuring the level of stress each supporting steel beam receives, the state can get a precise answer about traffic’s effect on the bridge, said Greg Baird, a state bridge and traffic studies engineer.

And the results will help determine the appropriate load limit, which is currently 65 percent of the legal limit of 80,000 pounds, Baird said.

The University of Cincinnati crew is expected to conduct quarterly measurements of the data, he said.