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New look unveiled for Ironton-Russell Bridge

IRONTON — With the start of construction still more than two years away, the new Ironton-Russell Bridge is already getting a facelift — at least in its design.

Burdened with elevating costs and the lack of stimulus monies to fund the project, the proposed design of the bridge took a 180 degree turn Thursday night when officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation unveiled its new look.

It is a look that does not contain the previously proposed 515-foot single tower that would have put the new bridge in the record books as having the largest bridge tower in the United States.

Instead designers, citing costs, are proposing a cable-stay bridge with two towers each rising 245 feet from the Ohio River below. When complete, the new Ironton-Russell Bridge will become the fourth cable-stay bridge in the state of Ohio and will be taller than the existing bridge.

Also altered is the number of traffic lanes the new bridge will have.

In its original design, the bridge was listed as being 60-feet-wide with four lanes of traffic available.

Now, the bridge will be similar to the current structure at 32-feet-wide with two, 12-foot lanes and an additional four feet of space on each side.

The roadway material on the new bridge will be constructed of concrete and will not have any type of load restrictions like the current bridge.

The unveiling of the new design of the proposed $107 million bridge was done in front of Ironton City Council Thursday by ODOT representatives Tom Barnitz and Gary Cochenour.

Armed with a dozen or so drawings and computer-generated photos, both Barnitz and Cochenour told council a single tower bridge was just going to become “too costly” based on current circumstances.

“The bridge is now going to become a two-story tower as it is more economical,” Barnitz said when pointing out the proposed design of the new structure.

Barnitz went on to explain to council that in order to get the two-story tower design implemented, ODOT was forced to petition the U.S. Coast Guard for a variance based on barge clearance.

Asked by council where the project is design wise, Barnitz said it was “well beyond 50 percent design stage on the bridge.”

The new Ironton-Russell Bridge is being designed by San Francisco-based URS Corp. URS is one of the leaders in infrastructure planning and bridge design in the world.

In 2007, the company was selected to design and construct the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport in New Mexico. URS has also been in the headlines recently being named in lawsuits as the engineering firm of record on the Interstate 35W Bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis two years ago.

One end of the new bridge would be near the intersection with U.S. 23 and Kentucky Route 244 in Russell and the other end would be at the intersection of Second and Jefferson streets in Ironton.

When complete the bridge will have lights for each cable that shines up onto it. ODOT officials said no specific light color pattern has been chosen.

Barnitz and Cochenour said Thursday they anticipated construction bids to sell on the bridge in Sept. 2011 with construction starting the following spring.

They estimated the bridge will take three years to build with a 2015 opening and another year to demolish the existing bridge, which will be maintained during construction.

Earlier this month, Lawrence County Commissioners sent a letter to ODOT attempting to move up the start of the Ironton-Russell Bridge replacement project.

When asked by Councilman Mike Lutz what their feelings were on the current time table they suggested, Cochenour was confident with his answer.

“At this time we (ODOT) feel there is nothing going to stop it,” Cochenour said.

ODOT has scheduled a public meeting on the project and the design for Thursday, Sept. 10 from 4-7 p.m. at the ODOT garage facility on Commerce Drive just off of South Third Street.