Feds approve final EIS for Ironton-Russell Bridge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2003

Replacing the Ironton-Russell Bridge became closer to reality Friday as the final Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

"Having a new bridge linking the cities of Ironton, Ohio, and Russell, Ky., built across the Ohio River is of great importance for the residents and commuters who use the existing structure every day," John F. Hagen, deputy director of ODOT's District 9, said in a written statement.

"The Federal Highway's approval of the EIS is a significant step in the process, and it will enable us to move this project forward."

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ODOT's preferred location for the $55 million project calls for the span to begin near the intersection of Second and Jefferson streets in Ironton and connect to the intersection of Kentucky Route 244 and U.S. Route 23 in Russell.

"The EIS is put together by ODOT outlining how it will affect the immediate area and the people," said Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for ODOT District 9. "It looks at what impact it will have on cultural, historical, business, wetlands or residential resources."

Fuller said the lengthy document includes a summary of public input and findings. A public hearing to allow input into the draft was hosted at Ohio University Southern in June of last year.

The EIS will be available for public viewing from Jan. 27 through Feb. 25 at the Lawrence County Commiss-ioners' Office, the Lawrence County Engineer's Office, the Briggs-Lawrence County Public Library and the Ironton City Center.

After the public viewing, the EIS will be resubmitted to the FHA with any additional comments for a final decision, Fuller said.

The architectural firm, Baker and Associates of Dublin, will complete the bridge design in 2003. The real-estate acquisition should begin by 2004, Fuller said.

Construction could begin by 2005 and be completed in 2008. The existing bridge will reman open throughout the construction process, she said.

While these are plans for the future, ODOT will continue to monitor the existing structure with the potential for closures until the cold weather passes.

The lowest surface temperature that has been recorded during this week's cold front was 8.5 degrees.

If the weather is forecasted to drop below zero, ODOT will consider closing the bridge.

The bridge is safe for travel, but may suffer additional damage in sub-zero temperatures, according to ODOT.

If the temperature drops to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, the bridge will be closed. Motorists will be detoured via the Ashland, Ky., bridge until the temperature rises to 5 degrees or warmer.

Before the bridge will be reopened, ODOT inspectors will determine if the bridge has incurred any additional stress or damage.