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Bridge set for inspection after closure

The Ironton-Russell Bridge was closed at approximately 7 p.m. Monday for about an hour after structural issues were reported on the Ohio side of the more than 90-year-old span. However, Monday evening Ohio Department of Transportation officials said the structure was safe and was reopened to traffic.

The Ironton Police and Fire departments blocked the Ohio side at approximately 7 p.m. and Russell, Ky., Police did the same after the metal-gridded decking was reported to have dropped between four and six inches.

However this morning Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for ODOT’s District 9 said that report was not accurate.

“It was not a six-inch difference,” she said. “It was less than one inch. There was one particular joint where there was a slight elevation of difference.”

It was initially reported by a motorist or pedestrian. Sources reported the Russell Police inspected the structure and could not confirm the report about the bridge that was built in 1922.

Several ODOT employees from the local garage who are familiar with the condition of the bridge, as well as contractors working on construction of the new bridge, inspected it at approximately 8 p.m. and determined it was safe to reopen the bridge.

The ODOT officials said the issue appeared to be tied to expansion joints near an abutment on the Ohio side, potentially tied to the rapid change in temperature, and has happened in the past, said Fuller said.

“They have seen this before with the temperature dropping,” Fuller said. “We have had 80 degree days and now it is very cold.”

The bridge is monitored by a variety of stress sensors 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

“There were no stress warnings through the monitoring on the bridge,” Fuller said. “That is working properly. We don’t know where the report came from.”

A full inspection is slated for today, but the high winds and storms tied to Hurricane Sandy could slow the process that may require lane restrictions or a short-term closure, Fuller said.

ODOT is in the process of building a new span that will begin near Second and Jefferson streets in Ironton and connect near Russell, Ky., at the viaduct on U.S. 23. The bridge is slated to cost $81.2 million and should be completed by the fall of 2015.

By the time the bridge is complete, it will be constructed of more than 8.2 million pounds of steel and nearly 24,395 cubic yards of concrete.

It has been a long process to replace the span that has been closed periodically in inclement weather.

In 1999, a design process began to replace the bridge. When ODOT was ready to award a contract, bids came in more than $20 million over estimates. Plans for the new bridge were tabled, redesigns moved slowly and the project hit other snags tied to funding and the economy.

ODOT officially awarded a $81.2 million dollar contract to Brayman Construction, of Saxonburg, Penn., in January.

Construction began in early March.