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Ironton-Russell Bridge hit by barge, closed for now

The Ironton-Russell Bridge was closed to all traffic at approximately 10:30 p.m. Saturday night — and could stay that way until at least Monday — after a barge reportedly struck one of the span’s piers.

The Ironton-Russell Bridge was closed to all traffic at approximately 10:30 p.m. Saturday night — and could stay that way until at least Monday — after a barge reportedly struck one of its piers.

Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation, confirmed that there were reports that the Ohio River span was struck and that it would be closed until it could be thoroughly inspected in daylight hours.

“It is too early (to speculate on exactly how long the bridge will be closed),” Fuller said. “We don’t know the extent other than a barge struck it.”

ODOT officials are scrambling to get inspectors to Ironton, but that may not happen until Monday. Any damage, and the severity of it, would determine how soon the bridge would re-open, Fuller said.

Traffic on both sides of the river will be detoured to the twin bridges in Ashland, Ky.

The aging span was built in 1922. ODOT is in the process of building a new bridge 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 projected 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 an $81.2 million dollar contract to Brayman Construction, of Saxonburg, Penn., in January. Construction began in early March.