Community must make some noise about new bridge

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

There are few icons that make Ironton stand out from other river towns along the Ohio River: the tunnel, the Depot, and probably one of the most important, the Ironton-Russell Bridge.

The bridge is a landmark in this city. Not only is it one of the first things that drivers see as they curve around the hills along U.S. 52, it is a major artery that connects Ironton businesses to the thousands of people in Russell, Flatwoods, Raceland and the many other Kentucky towns that help keep the few remaining downtown businesses alive.

Without a bridge here, it seems very likely that a high majority of people would find places in Ashland or elsewhere to do their shopping, dining or visiting, which would truly hurt this city.

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And now, that bridge is aging; with every single vehicle that crosses its rusted steel frame, the creaking bridge grows one small step closer to its inevitable demise.

And, although for a while many Irontonians had reason to hope, much of that hope has waned lately as the Ohio Department of Transportation temporarily scrapped plans for a replacement span, citing ballooning project estimates.

ODOT’s Office of Contracts opened the bids for the new bridge project and the lowest bid was nearly $110 — about 28 percent more than the $85 million than ODOT officials had budgeted.

So, as managing editor, I watch letter after letter come in to The Ironton Tribune, but one thing has surprised me: There has not been one letter to the editor written about the fate of the bridge since I started here several weeks ago.

I thought the bridge would be the No. 1 issue here. I thought people would be in the streets clamoring for a new bridge and writing letter after letter telling the state how important the issue is to this city.

But instead, the passion has been focused on issues surrounding the Ironton School Board and atrocities halfway around the world in the Darfur region of Sudan.

I understand that people are passionate about school issues. I think that’s great.

But, we can’t forget about the bridge. There is no area in this state that cares more about what happens in Ironton than right here in Ironton. So, we need to make some noise — and a lot of it.

If the state sees that there is no need or no passion for a bridge in this city, then it will have no problem setting it aside for another decade or even longer.

We have to make some noise if we want a new bridge. After all, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. So, let’s squeak as much as possible, Ironton. It may be our only hope right now.

Don Willis is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12 or