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ODOT unveils bridge design

IRONTON — The public got its chance on Thursday to give its two cents on the design of the new Ironton-Russell Bridge.

Members of the Ohio Department of Transportation conducted a public meeting open house to hear community input on the proposed design of the bridge that is slated to be completed by 2015.

The information session was held from 4-7 p.m. at the ODOT Lawrence County garage on Commerce Drive in Ironton.

First unveiled to Ironton City Council on Aug. 27, the proposed design has the new Ironton-Russell Bridge a cable-stay bridge with two towers each rising 245 feet from the Ohio River below.

While becoming the fourth cable-stay bridge in the state of Ohio, the new bridge will 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.

ODOT and its designers cited costs in having to modify the design from a single tower to dual towers. 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.

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

The open house for the new design of the proposed $107 million bridge included ODOT District 9 Deputy Director James Brushart who said the new bridge is an important need for Ironton.

“The new bridge will serve the purpose of this area and with everything taken into consideration, it should be a great project,” Brushart said.

On display were the same drawings and computer-generated photos ODOT used to unveil the design to Ironton City Council last month.

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.

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.

ODOT anticipates construction bids to sell on the bridge in Sept. 2011 with construction starting the following spring.

They estimate the bridge will take three years to build with a 2015 opening and another year to demolish the 87-year-old existing bridge, which will be maintained during construction.

“We feel really confident that the redesign is on schedule,” Brushart added.

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

Also trying to get the timetable pushed up is Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship who told Ironton City Council Thursday he met with State Sen. Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) about fast tracking the project up a few years.

While the bridge spans two states, ODOT is responsible for the Ironton-Russell Bridge under an agreement with the state of Kentucky where each state is solely responsible for a specific number of bridges that span both states.

ODOT assumed ownership of the bridge in 1982. It currently costs the state $500,000 a year to keep the bridge that is currently rated “structurally-deficient” and “functionally-obsolete” in safe condition.