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‘Bridging’ differences through tenacity

The Ohio Department of Transportation got it right — finally.

It didn’t come easy and certainly didn’t come without a significant level of arm twisting by local elected leaders who lived up to that name in this case.

But, at the end of the day, it appears that the replacement of the Ironton-Russell Bridge will move forward relatively on schedule this year and won’t be delayed much after all.

This announcement by ODOT comes after several weeks of hand-ringing, debate and outright anger from many in the Ironton community and across the river.

It all started when the Ohio Department of Transportation essentially pulled the rug out from under the citizens by announcing at the 11th hour day it would delay awarding bids in September in favor of an experimental funding mechanism focused on public-private partnerships.

This may be the wave of the future but the Ironton-Russell Bridge was supposed to have been built years ago. Several delays have pushed it back again and again.

This community is not going to embrace anything that delays the replacement of the antiquated structure that is there now.

It certainly wasn’t going to get on board with something that no one even fully seemed to understand nor could explain.

Our local elected officials, most notably Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship and Ohio House Rep. Terry Johnson, immediately began working to get ODOT officials to reconsider.

The impressive thing is … it worked.

Blankenship and Johnson made a compelling case that this bridge is a vital artery for southern Ohio, linking Ironton to Kentucky and, ultimately, the rest of the Tri-State.

These men helped ODOT realize that, as far as the citizens are concerned, this decision was about jobs. It was about safety. It was about access. It was about delivering on promises.

Both these men should be commended for their work and their effort.

While it is easy to say that they simply did what they are elected to do, the bottom line is it got the job done. This was more than just a token effort.

The fact they were able to convince ODOT to change its mind shows a lot about their effort and conviction.

We cannot truly celebrate until that first vehicle makes a celebratory drive across a completed span but, regardless of all the running in circles that came before, this is a step in the right direction.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.