• 64°

IBA sets bridge meeting

Ironton business leaders will take their message of keeping the Ironton-Russell Bridge at or near its current location to state officials one last time.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Ironton business leaders will take their message of keeping the Ironton-Russell Bridge at or near its current location to state officials one last time.

The Ironton Business Association will host a public discussion Nov. 23 with Ohio Department of Transportation planners, said IBA co-president Lou Pyles.

"There are some businesses downtown, around the bridge area, that are so fearful that the bridge won’t be put back to where it is and they will close," Mrs. Pyles said.

"We would like everybody to see the plans and would like for the people to talk with them and talk about trying to keep some life in the downtown area," she said.

The bridge, owned by Ohio, links Ironton to Russell, Ky., across the Ohio River and is used daily by hundreds of residents and shoppers. The 80-year-old structure’s planned replacement has caused concern along both sides of the river because new bridge options include building at three other sites.

The Ohio Controlling Board has already approved a $1.1 million contract for environmental studies for the project.

An engineering firm has preliminary plans and ODOT is awaiting a decision on where the bridge will go when construction begins in 2003. The answer could come as early as this winter.

"We’re grateful for a new bridge and we don’t want to turn the money down and give it to somebody else, but we also want them to consider the decision carefully," Mrs. Pyles said. "Don’t cause another small town to die out in Ohio because it would be more convenient to put it elsewhere."

And there are concerns that more correspondence with ODOT about a new bridge location has come from Russell residents, she said.

"Businesses downtown really need to think," she said. "A lot of my customers come from Russell They buy their groceries from Tipton’s and buy cars downtown. I would like to see a lot of people in Ironton and businessowners come to this meeting."

Proponents of locations outside downtown Ironton say linking major highways or putting bridge entrances in places without businesses will spur economic growth.

But businesspeople know that customers go places for convenience, which could mean cash problems for downtown stores, Mrs. Pyles said.

"Ironton doesn’t need to sit back and let everybody else plan for them," she said. "We need to plan for ourselves to keep the town alive."

The bridge meeting will begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Ironton City Center.

ODOT planners will present an overview of bridge plans, and the meeting will be moderated, Mrs. Pyles said.