Some in county want new structure named for Collins

Published 10:25 am Friday, March 22, 2013

Two years before the new Ironton-Russell Bridge becomes a reality some Lawrence County leaders already know what they want to call it and have lobbied state representatives to name the new structure after one of the longest serving state legislators.

Last week the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee heard testimony for House Bill 36 that would name the structure the Oakley C. Collins Memorial Bridge

Among those testifying were State Representative Terry Johnson, Ironton attorney Scott Evans, Collins’ son, Ironton Municipal Judge O. Clark Collins, and Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper.

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“I have nothing but support for this,” said Cooper, who was a legislative aide for the senator in the late 1960s. “My roots go way back in my fond feeling for the senator. I had a chance to watch his legislative efforts firsthand.”

Among the legislature Collins, who was first elected to the Statehouse in 1946, sponsored was to put fluoride into the water supply of the state and to lower Ohio’s voting age.

That latter bill was one that Cooper had the opportunity as a page to carry up to the front of the senate when it was introduced.

“It was the bill that changed the age of majority from 21 to 18, which affected me at that time,” Cooper said. “It gave me the ability to vote sooner than under the old law. Those were bills that benefited the entire state of Ohio. The senator was extremely helpful for southern Ohio. But I wouldn’t want anyone to think it wasn’t the entire state. He was looking out for everyone in the state.”

Although construction of the bridge is under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Transportation, naming it is the domain of Columbus.

“It goes through the legislature to name a structure,” Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for ODOT, District 9, said. “Most commonly it is done through the local entity, like the county commission or city government.”

The current bridge got its name from the then bridge commission because it linked Ironton to Russell, Ky. It was never named for an individual, unlike the U.S. Grant Bridge in Portsmouth that was named for the Civil War general and president. That bridge kept its name after it was replaced.

“The reason we didn’t rename it, it has a designation where it is named for someone and we are not putting it in a new location,” Fuller sad. “Ironton-Russell is not named and it is moving to a new location.”

The next step is for the bill to be voted out of committee before coming before the entire House floor.