IRONTON — The grand opening celebration of the Ironton-Russell Bridge kicked off Wednesday with festivities to include a ceremony, followed by a ribbon-cutting in downtown Ironton, for the $81.3 million project.
Hundreds gathered in the downtown area to behold the ribbon cutting, composed of community members from both Ohio and Kentucky. The preceding ceremony was held, with Vaughn Wilson, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation District 9, as master of ceremonies. Guest speakers consisted of Jim Barna, Assistant Director of Transportation Policy & Chief Engineer, Lyn Tolan, ODSA Deputy Director of Policy & Communications, Congressman Bill Johnson, U. S. House of Representatives, Sixth Congressional District of Ohio. Other speakers were Mayor of Ironton, Katrina Keith, and Mayor of Russell, Ky. William Hopkins.
Kathleen Fuller, ODOT Public Information Officer, said the construction of the Ironton-Bridge project in it’s entirety has been 15 years.
“We are so excited because after four and a half years we now have the new bridge,” Fuller said. “Now, granted, this project has been in development much longer than four and a half years, that was just to get us to the start of construction to end of construction. We’ve been working on this project for more than 15 years, so we are really excited to see this come to fruition and to see the new bridge here in Ironton, not just for the community but to Southern Ohio and both sides of the river.”
Brayman Construction Corporation of Saxonburg, Penn., was awarded $81.3 million in January of 2012 to build the Ironton-Russell Bridge. The new Ironton-Russell Bridge replaces the existing bridge which connects Ironton, Ohio with Russell, Ky. by relocating it between Second and Jefferson streets in downtown Ironton and the U.S. 23 viaduct south of Russell. The project also includes the demolition of the existing or old bridge upon completion of the new structure, according to a news release from ODOT.
Congressman Bill Johnson was among the politicians present at the ceremonies.
“This is a great day. A project that has been going on for many, many years,” Johnson said. “The old bridge would occasionally have to be shut down, or closed for one reason or another, and you’ve got a lot of people in Kentucky that work in Ohio, and vice versa. So, this is a big deal for the economic viability of this region.”
Senator Robin Webb-D, Grayson,Ky., said it was a bittersweet day, saying farewell to the old bridge, and welcoming the new.
“This is a great day for Ironton and Russell and our entire region,” Webb said. For the sense of community and safety of travel, and the economic development potential now that another transportation project is complete. It is a bitter sweet day for the old bridge, I drove over it a bit ago myself, and listened to the rattle and the roll, and I really wish we could keep it, but it really doesn’t look feasible. It is just a great day to be here.”
The Boy Scout Troop 106, and the Ironton High School Varsity Singers also participated in the celebration.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-464-3862, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.