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Meeting in the middle

Officials, media walk across new I-R Bridge

Local media, public officials and representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) as well as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet marked the recent connecting of the new Ironton-Russell Bridge Thursday afternoon, walking from each side and meeting in the middle.

“We get a lot of calls from the media and the general public about the progress of the bridge,” Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 public information officer, said. “We knew the final segment was going to be completed sometime in June, so I started talking with my counterpart, Allen Blaire (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 9 public information officer), about doing something about a month ago.”

Fuller said the event was not open to the public because it is still an active worksite, however, ODOT wanted to get its Kentucky counterparts and the media involved.

“It’s great to show everyone how far we’ve come,” Fuller said. “It’s a significant day when the main span is completed.”

Among the public officials that made their way to the center of the bridge were Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith and Russell, Kentucky, Mayor Bill Hopkins.

“This bridge is great for Ironton. It shows we’re progressing forward and, in my opinion, the progression of the bridge shows new life,” Keith said. “We wanted to unite with Kentucky because this is a Tri-State and we work together.”

Hopkins said that although the bridge is considered an Ohio project, work would still be completed on the Kentucky side.

“We’re looking forward to this final part and hope to see an announcement soon that they’ll be able to get this finished,” Hopkins said.

He added that an additional project of replacing the viaduct connecting Russell to U.S. 23 on the Kentucky side will also be done, which would compensate for traffic lost when the current Ironton-Russell Bridge, connecting directly to Russell, is closed.

Ohio Sen. Joe Uecker, R-14, was also in attendance and said the bridge shows great local, regional and state collaboration.

“We’re reacting to future commerce,” he said. “We have a lot of aging bridges in this part of Ohio, and it’s good to replace them before they have to be closed down for significant periods of time. If a bridge closes, it can be devastating to the regional Midwest economy.”

Uecker said he was impressed with the new Ironton-Russell Bridge project as well as the Veterans Memorial Highway project going on in Scioto County.

“It opens up commerce in southern Ohio,” he said.

The new Ironton-Russell Bridge is set to be open to traffic sometime around Thanksgiving of this year, where a ribbon cutting event for the general public will take place.