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Ironton bridge closer to reality?

It was a phone call that Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship is sure glad he made. Friday morning Blankenship called up Drew Gilmore of the real estate division of the Ohio Department of Transportation to give him a progress report about a small piece of land the state wants.

That’s when he heard news he’s been waiting for since he took office. ODOT expects construction to start July 18, 2011, on the new Ironton-Russell Bridge.

“This has been one of my priorities,” Blankenship said.

ODOT is saying that the deadline to have all property purchased for off ramps for the bridge is January 2011. The project will go for bids on May 19 and the contract is expected to be awarded on May 26.

The property that ODOT wants from the city is about 300 square feet needed for a portion of the off ramp. Currently council is considering an ordinance that would donate that tract to the state.

Keeping Gilmore apprised of the status of that ordinance was the reason for Blankenship’s call.

“We don’t use that property,” the mayor said. “ I think that is the least we can do.”

ODOT predicts the new bridge, to be built about three blocks upriver from the current structure, will be completed by 2014, Blankenship said.

“This makes me feel great,” he said. “I put a lot of time and effort to get this project moved up. We have a bridge built in 1922. It has lived its life. It is very important to the city of Ironton. This bridge is in need of replacement. We were promised this in 2007 and it didn’t happen. I wanted to push for it.”