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Bridge touchdown remains at debate

Where a new Ironton-Russell Bridge will span the Ohio River now hinges on who wins out on the Ohio side – the Ohio Department of Transportation, which prefers to close Second Street where the bridge will enter Ironton; or city leaders, who want Second Street to remain open at the bridge entrance.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Where a new Ironton-Russell Bridge will span the Ohio River now hinges on who wins out on the Ohio side – the Ohio Department of Transportation, which prefers to close Second Street where the bridge will enter Ironton; or city leaders, who want Second Street to remain open at the bridge entrance.

Both proposals will take the stage Tuesday and Wednesday next week, when ODOT and its consultants Baker and Associates plan local open houses.

"We’re at the place where it looks like we have a preferred alternative, but we have two touchdowns," said Kaye Humble, project manager with ODOT.

ODOT has already decided the Kentucky touchdown point for the new bridge, at U.S. 23 near the roadway into Russell. The state wants to decide the Ironton touchdown point this winter, so that federal public comment periods can begin by early spring 2002, at the latest, Ms. Humble said.

The plans, comparisons and further studies of each touchdown option will be brought to the public at next week’s open houses, so the state can explain where the project is at and how it got there, she said.

The comment-gathering is also a part of the federal NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) process, she added.

On the table:

– B/C-3A Jefferson/Second Street Optional Intersection: Brings the bridge approach up Second Street, closing Second to through traffic from Jefferson to Monroe. Campbell Street and the railroad crossing remain open.

– B/C-3C Jefferson Street/Mid-block Optional Intersection: Retains Second Street but would close Jefferson and Madison streets between Second and Campbell.

A third option (B/C-3B with optional intersection at Campbell Street) was ruled out, because stakeholders saw options 3A and 3C as the most likely candidates for further study, Ms. Humble said.

The state is close to finishing a draft of a required Environmental Impact Statement, which would require a touchdown in Ironton be chosen, she said.

"We want to build a good bridge and build it in a location that will serve the public; that’s why we’ve been very careful gathering comments on this selection," Ms. Humble said.

ODOT will make the touchdown decision, taking into consideration all the comments and studies, she said.

But, there have been several public meetings hosted by ODOT in the past, and the Ironton council already has made its point, incoming council president Jesse Roberts said about the open houses.

An August council resolution declared B/C-3C as the city’s choice because it leaves Second Street open to through traffic. ODOT has favored the B/C-3A approach, which closes Second Street, because planners say the traffic patterns are best.

"I’ve always said I will not close Second Street without a fight," Roberts said, adding that the council has made that clear, too, many times.

"I don’t know how the new council will feel, but there are a lot of the members still there and they have an interest in keeping Second Street open," he said.

Having the bridge cross to U.S. 23 instead of downtown Russell is considered by many a financial setback for Ironton, and closing Second Street for the Ironton touchdown would also be a financial setback, Roberts said.

Prior to the open houses, ODOT said it will meet with government stakeholders, including Ironton and Russell officials.

The public open houses are set for Dec. 4 from 3-6:30 p.m. in OUSC’s rotunda and Dec. 5 from 3-6:30 p.m. at Russell City Hall.