Friday, September 18, 2015

Save the Ironton-Russell Bridge?

It opened to traffic in 1922. It was the second highway bridge on the Ohio River between Wheeling and Cincinnati. (The first was demolished around 1980). And its replacement could be open to traffic as early as late 2016.

The Ironton-Russell Bridge has had its share of problems. It closes in winter when the temperature drops below a certain point. Falcons nest on its structure, so it is closed to pedestrians in hatching season. My son refuses to cross it because at one time it ranked a 2 on a scale of 100 for adequacy. The last I checked, it has since been upgraded to a 7.

The old bridge is a relic of a former era of engineering and materials science. Some younger bridges of its time have been rehabilitated and are still in use. The Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge, a few miles upstream at Ashland KY, is one example. But the Ironton-Russell Bridge was too far gone to rehab. At a certain point, you have to buy a new car. You can keep the old one running, but you're just waiting for a catastrophic failure, and you can't have that with a bridge.

But there's a petition effort to keep the old bridge open as a pedestrian crossing that would continue to link downtown Ironton OH with downtown Russell KY. As with any such effort nowadays, there's also a Facebook page.

If the contract to build the new bridge is similar to others that I have covered, the builder probably is responsible for demolishing the old bridge, and he gets to sell the scrap metal. Any effort to save the old bridge would have to work around this.

We probably all know several old bridges that people have wanted to save. They can't all be preserved, and it's probably not safe to do so. A lot of those old bridges would be a personal injury or accidental death lawsuit waiting to happen.

Don't ask me whether this bridge should be saved. I would like to see it kept alive, but don't ask me to decide whether it would be worth the cost and trouble. Surely someone in the Ironton or Russell communities is working on a plan to preserve the legacy of this bridge.

That assumes people like their old bridge. When Huntington received a new bridge in 1994, a few people wanted to preserve the old one for historical reasons. But most people were tired of the old bridge and the problems it caused, and they were glad to see it go.

Which reminds me of a tragic but comic story about the demolition of that old bridge, but that has to wait for another day.