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Mayor: Bridge may be on schedule

The new Ironton-Russell Bridge will likely go to bid on time or within a few weeks of the previously set Oct. 6 opening bid date, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said.

That’s the latest after a meeting with officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation Tuesday afternoon.

Blankenship, along with Scott Evans from Rep. Terry Johnson’s office, met with ODOT Director Jerry Wray in Columbus about the construction of the bridge. A consultant from the group that works on public-private partnerships for ODOT was also at the meeting.

The structure had previously been scheduled to go to bid Oct. 6. Last month the department announced that it was delaying the project in order to try to fund it through a public-private partnership, or P3.

The Tuesday meeting was the second one in a few weeks between the mayor and ODOT officials. Blankenship met with them soon after the announcement to express his opposition to the delay and ask them to reconsider.

The mayor said he is pleased with the outcome of the latest meeting.

“We will get our bridge with limited or no delay, within a couple weeks of that date,” Blankenship said. “ODOT will let me know what method they want to go with, (public-private partnership) or bid it out. And it will not be a toll bridge. I asked them and they said no.”

Kathleen Fuller, ODOT district 9 public information officer, said the department will fast track the P3 process to see if there are possibilities of financing the bridge through such a program. If not, she said, the department will proceed to go ahead with original plans to bid it out.

The bridge will go to sale this budget year whether it’s through a P3 or otherwise, Fuller said.

Blankenship said the news that the bridge will not be delayed much is good for the city and the county.

“We’re OK with the two to three week delay but anything over that is unacceptable and they understand that,” Blankenship said. “They have stated that within two to three weeks they’ll let me know which method and we’ll go from there.”

The mayor attributed the latest announcement to his advocating for the bridge.

“I honestly believe if I didn’t meet with him we would be sitting on the June 12 or never date,” Blankenship said.