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Blue lights over Kentucky: ODOT installs LED lights on new bridge

Drivers may have noticed a new addition to the Oakley C. Collins Memorial Bridge, a blue hue that lights up the two-lane double-tower cable suspension bridge at night.

Crews from the Ohio Department of Transportation have been installing LED lights on the bridge for the past couple of weeks.

It was an idea proposed long ago, but only happened because of reduced costs.

Back in January 2015, Sam Heighton, the director of Ironton aLive was talking with Shirley Dyer, director of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce, about making the area more appealing. The Ohio Department of Transportation was building a replacement for the aged Ironton-Russell Bridge and that sparked an idea.

“We decided we had to do something together and we talked about the bridge and thought about colored lights on the bridge,” Heighton said, adding that they talked to a lot of people about the idea. “I talked to Clark Collins, because the bridge is named after his dad, and Clark’s son plays golf with the governor. We gave him some pictures of other lit bridges so they would have an idea of what we were talking about.”

Heighton said they talked to lawmakers and ODOT personnel during Legislation Day at the capitol in Columbus in 2015.

“Everyone thought it was a good idea,” he said. “We suggested red, white and blue, but you can’t use red on the river.”

Lighting was always part of the plan, said ODOT District 9 spokesperson Kathleen Fuller.

Originally, the plan was to use a more common white/yellow colored LED lighting scheme. In a Tribune article from July 17, 2015, Fuller said that ODOT had looked at the numbers and estimated that it would cost an additional $400,000 to $500,000 to do different colored LED lights and the agency couldn’t see spending the additional money.

“So it was a pleasant surprise for everybody to see the blue lights,” Fuller said.

“So, we were surprised last Friday when it lit up like that,” Heighton said. “I had seen that they were installing lights, but I just assumed that it would be white lights like other bridges.”

Heighton said that he stopped by the ODOT office to thank them.

“I asked them how it got done, since they didn’t think it was affordable,” he said. Turns out that time was on the bridge’s side. “The over-run had been long enough that the price of LED lights had come down quite a bit, so they went ahead and bought them.”

Heighton said that he wasn’t claiming credit for the lights.

“Once we got started, a lot of people thought it was a good idea,” he said. “Mayor Katrina Keith talked it up, (previous) Mayor Rich Blankenship talked it up. We got a lot of help along the way.”

Heighton said he really likes the lights and thinks it helps improve the area.

“I think it’s a really good start at getting our little town recognized,” he said. “It’s a niche that nobody else around has.”

Fuller said that the bridge lighting will be increasing soon.

“We have one section that is not turned on yet,” she said. “So there is more uplighting to come. But I saw some photos of what is already done and it is quite becoming.”

She added there is more minor work coming for the bridge, such as some work on the deck, another sign to be installed, and doors on the towers.

“They weren’t major things that would delay the opening of the bridge,” Fuller said.