Residents weigh I-R bridge options

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2000

City residents got a detailed look Wednesday at new Ironton-Russell bridge replacement options.

Thursday, July 06, 2000

City residents got a detailed look Wednesday at new Ironton-Russell bridge replacement options.

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Lana Moore and Karen McCown, who viewed each one, said the newer alternatives are a better compromise with what each city’s inhabitants want.

"They don’t go into our residential area and they don’t go into Russell’s downtown," Mrs. Moore said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation unveiled two new proposals and several options to the existing four replacement plans that it released last year.

Mrs. McCown favors a new proposal called B-C 1 that sweeps across the Ohio River at an angle from U.S. 23 to Second Street in Ironton near the Adams Street intersection.

"I like this one on Second Street because it won’t close Third, it’s $16 million cheaper and fewer people are impacted," she said.

Another option puts the bridge ramp down on Third Street. At least two alternatives to existing plans make the bridge ramp a T-intersection with Third or Second. However, no option is set in stone and each can be redrawn easily to meet residents’ needs or other goals, ODOT officials said.

But some residents, like Dave Lawless, thought there would be fewer bridge replacement options at Wednesday’s meeting, not details on 10.

"They’ve done nothing but added more alternative sites," Lawless said. "The only site I want is one that benefits Ironton."

Ironton schools cannot handle the loss of property taxes if many homes are taken for a project, which would probably make residents – including himself – move out of Ironton altogether, he said.

Ironton Business Association co-president Lou Pyles said Ironton needs to keep all its businesses and all its business trade.

The options that displace car dealerships, retail stores and offices would not benefit the downtown and taking the bridge out of downtown or closing it for rehabilitation would destroy valuable traffic patterns, Mrs. Pyles said.

"I know there’s not a perfect answer to all this, but we need a bridge," she said. "We can’t let our business slip away."

ODOT will narrow the choice of Ironton-Russell Bridge replacement plans to the best two or three by this winter, officials said.

"There is a lot to do in between but it can be done," said John Hagen, deputy director for Ohio Department of Transportation District 9.

Hagen answered questions at the community meeting, especially about options that alleviate some concerns residents brought to similar meetings last year.

"We hope to have it narrowed down this year to one would be optimistic but probably two or three," Hagen said.

ODOT engineer Tim Hill said officials will choose not by public votes but by weighing each city’s residents’ goals with environmental impacts and transportation goals.

The next step is to determine the impact of selected bridge alternatives, which should be accomplished from environmental studies over the summer and fall, Hill said.

ODOT plans to enter the construction phase in fiscal year 2003, after seeking extra funding, Hagen said.

"We have $35 million and nothing is that cheap," he said, referring to all 10 plan estimates that are over budget.

The cheapest option, rehabilitating the existing bridge, could cost about $42 million. The new alternatives are two of the most expensive, coming in between $74 million and $90 million.

ODOT can access federal "discretionary funds" that would make up the difference between state money and the project cost, Hagen said.

"Next, we’ll review all the comments today put everything together and take maybe two or three through environmentals," he said.

Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary, officials from Russell and Tri-State road planners met with ODOT earlier Wednesday for several hours, discussing the same bridge options.

"With what they presented to us, there has been a lot of consideration and lot of study has went into a lot of corridors," Cleary said.

"They all seem to have positive and negative sides, and a couple to me wouldn’t be in consideration at all," he said, talking about those that empty onto Third Street with a ramp, which would close the street at that point.

"We’ll wait and see what the public meeting results are but the thing everyone has to keep in mind is this could be our only opportunity to get a new bridge," the mayor said.

"Ironton has been struck with pretty hard times with companies leaving town," he said. "A good bridge is something we could offer that connects major state highways, even though it’s years away."

Regardless of which alternatives ODOT chooses, Mrs. McCown and Mrs. Moore agreed that it’s time to move forward.

"We have to look to the future," Mrs. Moore Said. "Whether we like it or not, the bridge must be replaced. A few residences and businesses will have to be disturbed but they have to to get us a new bridge."