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Support for bridge #039;good#039;, ODOT says

Plans to replace the Ironton-Russell Bridge took another step forward Tuesday as a

public hearing was hosted in the rotunda in the Riffe Center at Ohio University Southern to show the preferred location.

Representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation and their consultants, Baker and Associates, talked with the community about the plans.

"The support has been pretty good,&uot; said John Hagen, deputy director of ODOT District 9. "Everybody is pretty well settled with this alignment.&uot;

The actual bridge type and design will be finalized by 2004. Right-of-way purchases will begin in 2003 and run until 2005. Construction will begin in 2005 and end 2007.

Originally started three years ago, the

preferred plan has the bridge connecting on Second Street near Jefferson Street in Ironton and directly connecting to U.S. 23 near the State Route 244 bridge in Russell, Ky.

"We had several meetings and took a lot of public input,&uot; Hagen said. "We tried to come up with an alignment to suit the most peoples’ needs.&uot;

"We had alternatives all over town and this was the best alternative,&uot; said Jack McCandless, project manager for Baker and Associates. "Because the begin and end points were set by (city) resolutions, it will be a bit of a challenge for the construction and final design.&uot;

"Through the life of the project, we looked at 17 alternatives,&uot; he added.

Six businesses may be affected, several more are adjacent and eight residences must be purchased.

Four of the houses are owned by the Lawrence County Historical Society but they are willing to sell because there are other homes in the county that represent the same types of structures.

"We think it is probably the best way to go even though we will lose our buildings,&uot; John Alfrey, trustee for the Lawrence County Historical Society, said.

The businesses that may be lose off-street parking and access include 2nd Street Auto Sales, Cochran & Co. Pool Store, C & S Guns and Archery,

Charlie’s Tire Sales Inc., The Car Wash and Movies Galore.

Many of the owners have attended the meetings but it is hard to tell exactly how they will be affected until the final designs are completed, McCandless said.

Ralph Whitman, general manger of S & S Drivethru and Carryout, said he thinks it will help the business and is clearly the best alternative.

Chesapeake resident Brenda Morris and her family own the land that KFC leases. She was at the hearing to see how it will affect the restaurant but representatives told her that they couldn’t say for sure until the final plans.

Mayor Bob Cleary said they have worked with ODOT to build on the best site available and he is looking forward to seeing the type of bridge designed.

"We are a historically rich city and would like to have the bridge blend itself to the community,&uot; he said. "I think it could mean increased trade in Ironton.&uot;

The bridge was opened in 1922 and approximately 11,000 vehicles cross it each day. There are many problems that have been identified by state assessors including restricted vertical clearance, limited load carrying capacity, structural deterioration and narrow roadways. Approximately $700,000 is spent each year on maintenance.

A general appraisal rated the bridge a four on a nine point scale. This rates as fair to poor condition. A uniform grading criteria used to rate bridges gave it a seven out of 100 points, ranking structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

While this is not an immediate safety hazard, even an older bridge in good condition should be in the 70-80 point range, said Dean Palmer, project engineer for Richland Engineering Limited, a sub-consultant for Baker and Associates. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune