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Ironton-Russell Bridge gets FAA approval

The Ironton-Russell Bridge has been cleared for landing.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has received approval from the FAA to go ahead with plans for the new bridge after reviewing concerns that the cable-stayed design may interfere with the flight path at nearby Ashland (Ky.) Regional Airport.

ODOT District 9 spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller said project engineer Gary Cochenour received a permit from the FAA within the last couple of days. That permit will approves the bridge as designed.

Fuller said initially, the FAA had expressed concern about the proposed bridge's center tower, from which the cables emanate. The tower is designed to be 503 feet tall from the top of the water level- more than 300 feet taller than the top of the existing bridge.

There was concern that airplanes flying into the Ashland Regional Airport's runway would have trouble clearing the top of the tower and still be able to drop altitude at a sufficient and safe rate to land at the airport.

Ashland Regional Airport Manager Don Jacobs said he was made aware of the problem when he received a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration May 6. Until then, he did not know there was a potential problem.

"Until then I knew they were building a bridge but I didn't know what kind it was going to be, what it was going to look like," Jacobs said. "If you've got a jet coming in, you've got to clear the top of that tower and then drop altitude enough to land."

Jacobs said he had not gotten any notification from the FAA that the agency has issued a permit to ODOT for the design as proposed. He said regardless, the problems for the airport still exist.

"We'll let the FAA sort it out. If they say we can live with, it guess we'll have to because we won't have any choice," Jacobs said.

Fuller said ODOT's original FAA permit was denied until the federal officials studied the impact of the design on flight safety issues.

The project is slated to be sold in late November, and construction should start some time next year.