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Mayor meets with ODOT director about bridge

Wray says he’ll review information

COLUMBUS — After a one-hour meeting Thursday with officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said he hopes the department will reconsider its decision to delay the construction of a the new Ironton-Russell Bridge.

Blankenship, along with Scott Evans from Representative Terry Johnson’s office met with ODOT director Jerry Wray, assistant director Greg Murphy and Vaughn Wilson, district deputy director in charge of district 9..

ODOT recently announced that the new Ironton-Russell Bridge will not go to bid Oct. 6 as planned, but will now be bid sometime between Oct. 6 and May 2012.

The department announced that it wants to fund the approximately $85 million project through a public-private partnership. New legislation would allow the department to do so, ODOT announced.

Blankenship, who opposes the delay, said he told the officials that the new bridge is imperative to safety and economic development in the city of Ironton.

“I want everyone to know that I’m trying everything I can possibly do and these decisions are made a state level,” Blankenship said.

Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for ODOT district 9 said Thursday that the public-private partnership would allow the department to save money. The department is expecting a reduction in funding and has to consider having funding for other projects as well, Fuller said.

Fuller said the bridge has been inspected following concerns after the recent earthquake and is safe.

ODOT officials agreed to review the information Blankenship provided.

Fuller said if a decision was made to proceed with the previous sale date, that decision would come quickly.

Blankenship said he hopes for the best but if the officials decide go ahead with the public-private partnership, it owes Lawrence County residents an explanation about why the bridge is being delayed.