Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Ironton-Russell Bridge, part 6 of 7

Here I ask a question, and I leave it up to people more knowledgeable in the graphic arts than I to answer it.

I'm pretty sure a speaker at the bridge dedication ceremony last week said the traditional "Welcome to Ohio" signs on bridges marking the state's borders will be changed, and the sign on the new bridge is the first or one of the first to be installed.

Here is the sign.

Here is the old style of sign.

I'm no graphics expert, but to me the old sign is better. For one thing, I don't get the "OhiO" and the orange border on the new one. The state flag colors are red, white and blue, not orange, white and blue. I don't know that you would find orange on the The Ohio State campus.

On further review, I see that the "OhiO" on the new sign is in brown. Brown and orange. The colors of the Cleveland Browns, the winningest franchise in the NFL in recent years. Going with a winner. Yes, that's it.

But I defer to others.

Next up: How a dozen of us got stranded on the wrong side of the river.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The new Ironton-Russell Bridge, post 5 of many (probably 7)

You don't often get the opportunity to walk on an Ohio River bridge unencumbered by motor vehicle traffic, unless you're talking about the Big Four Bridge in Louisville or the Purple People Bridge at Cincinnati. Back in 1977 we got to do it on the Silver Memorial Bridge while it was closed a few months for repairs to some butt weld cracks (I still have to be careful to type that right), and again in 1985 the evening or two before Huntington's new East End Bridge opened. I have some slides from that evening in a box waiting to be scanned.

We got to do that last Wednesday with the new Ironton-Russell Bridge. While a lot of people took selfies on the bridge or of other people on the bridge, I tended to look up at the towers and the cables. It was starting to hurt my neck until a woman suggested I lie on the roadway and shoot upward while flat on my back. The pavement was still wet from the rain, and I was reluctant to do so because I might need help getting up. She said she would help me up if I needed it. So I lay there on wet concrete. This is one image I got.

I think it looks better rotated 90 degrees right or left ...

... but not so much upside down.

My preference is a narrow horizontal crop emphasizing the cables.

And that was part of my excitement for the day.

Up next: Is this part really an improvement?

UPDATE: I posted a link to this entry on my personal Facebook page. When I saw the thumbnail photo that Facebook edited down, I kind of liked it. It was something like this:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

New Ironton-Russell Bridge, part 4 of many

I've been in the journalism business more than four decades. My first Ohio River story for pay that I can recall was in January 1977, during the big ice buildup. In that time, several new highway bridges have opened in my part of the river. Those would be at Parkersburg-Belpre, Blennerhassett Island, Ravenswood, Pomeroy-Mason, two at Huntington, Ashland, the Greenup Locks and Dam, two at Portsmouth and one at Maysville. In all that time, I had never covered a bridge dedication and opening. I had attended three demolitions, if you count one on the Kanawha, but never an opening of a bridge on the Ohio.

Until last week, of course. Here are a few images from that rainy day. I'll spare you stuff from under the ceremony tent.

Short version of events: Classic cars gathered in Ironton for a parade. Dignitaries spoke. A ribbon was cut. Boy Scouts carried flags across the bridge as pedestrians walked across without traffic. High school bands from two states marched. The parade of classic cars accompanied the pedestrians. Soon, the bridge was closed to pedestrians so the Ohio Department of Transportation could open it to traffic.

The rain that marked the speaking let up when it came time to cut the ribbon, and it was over when people were allowed to walk the bridge. A few minutes before traffic was allowed on the bridge, the sun came out.

In one newsroom where I once worked, the standing joke for writing about these events was that we would not use a standard TV news line: And a good time was had by all. Doing that was as unforgivable as referring to snow as "the white stuff" or talking about Jack Frost. But as far as I could tell, most people had a good time.

Next: How I got a decent image when someone suggested I try an unusual angle.

The new Ironton-Russell Bridge, part 3 of many

Before we get into the usual photo presentation of the opening of the new Ohio River bridge connecting Ironton, Ohio, and Russell, Kentucky, an overview of the project is in order.

Some basic facts about the new bridge, courtesy a project overview provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation at the dedication ceremony last week:

-- The bridge is a three-span cable stayed structure with reinforced concrete edge girder superstructure on the main span. Other types of designs, such as suspension, truss and arch, were considered, but the cable stay was chosen for reasons of construction cost, aesthetics, constructrability, maintenance, serviceability and inspection.

-- The main span is 900 feet long. The approach spans are 370 feet long each, for a total length of 1,640 feet. The roadway is 32 feet wide with no sidewalk, which was eliminated in the design phase to reduce costs. (I can tell you that as long as traffic behaves itself, there is enough room on the berm to walk across if you really want to. I have read that pedestrian traffic is not prohibited, but it is not encouraged, either).

-- The horizontal navigational clearance of the main span is 805 feet.

-- Each tower is 300.72 feet from the top to the river at normal pool, and 216.22 feet from the top to the deck.

-- The main structure of the bridge has 120 cables. There are 15 pairs on each back span and 30 in the main span. The strands are made of steel. The number of strands varies from 14 in the cables nearest to both towers to 35 in the cables farthest from the towers on the back spans. The cables at mid-span have 31 strands each.

-- The old bridge was restricted to passenger vehicles, light trucks and buses. On average it carried 10,300 vehicles per day. The new bridge will not have the same weight and width restrictions, so traffic numbers should be higher.

-- The construction cost was slightly more than $81 million. The total project cost is somewhere around $90 million.

One thing that wasn't in the fact sheet -- or mentioned by any speaker at the ceremony -- was the name for the bridge that local newspapers had been mentioning. Local media was under the impression that the bridge would be named for Oakley C. Collins, a former state senator who died about 30 years ago. Collins was known for steering state money toward education facilities in his district. The county's vocational school bears his name, as does the main building on the Ohio University Southern campus in Ironton. But Collins is also remembered by some as the man who owned the coal company that somehow strip mined in Wayne National Forest. Everyone at the ceremony referred to the new bridge by the name of the old one -- the Ironton-Russell Bridge. Whether there is political will to have the name formally changed remains to be seen.

Chokepoint at Paducah

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, for people who didn't travel ...

A lot of attention has come this year to the aging lock and dam infrastructure at both ends of the Ohio River. Here is an article (with wonderful photos) from the New York Times last week about Locks and Dam 52.

Don't ask me why there's more attention in the media to this unless someone in the industry or in the Corps of Engineers decided being quiet and shunning attention was getting them nowhere.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New Ironton-Russell Bridge, Part 2 of Many

After the customary congratulatory speeches and ribbon cutting, people attending the dedication ceremony of the new Ironton-Russell Bridge today got to walk across it mostly unbothered by auto traffic except for a parade of antique cars and trucks.

As people neared the midpoint of the bridge, they saw a boat coming down pushing six petroleum or chemical barges. The boat turned out to be the M/V City of Paducah, and I think the barges were labeled as carrying benzene, but I could be wrong there.

This was probably the first chance many people on the bridge had ever had to see a towboat this close. The rain earlier in the day helped, as wet barges tend to have deeper colors than dry ones. The just look better, and they can photograph better.

# # #

I have lots more to say and lots more pictures to show from the dedication, but this is the Thanksgiving holiday, and I expect to spend some time with my wife's family from out of town these next few days. I'll post as I can, although the volume might not kick up until Sunday. Until then, enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Ironton-Russell Bridge, part 1 of many

For the second day in a row, the clouds parted and allowed me to get the picture I wanted. This was not my best picture of the day, or my favorite, but it was the most fortuitous in the true sense of the word.

More to come after I decompress after a morning and early afternoon walking all over the place and mid-afternoon and evening chasing after a three-year-old. It will include how I got some decent pictures after a woman whose name I do not know encouraged me to lie flat on the roadway to get the picture I wanted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

End of an old bridge

It looks like this is the end for the 96-year-old bridge crossing the Ohio River connecting Ironton OH and Russell KY. A ceremony tomorrow, Nov. 23, at 11 a.m. marks the opening of the new Oakley C. Collins Bridge and the closing of the old one just a little downstream.

So many thoughts come to mind about the old bridge.

-- In cold weather, it is closed to traffic because the old steel is too brittle to bear the weight of traffic.

-- The bridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic for years because a nesting pair of arctic peregrine falcons called the bridge home, and they dive bombed people to keep them away from the nexts.

-- Back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, a Cleveland OH resident named Russell Toll drove down to see the bridge. He had been looking at an Ohio highway map and saw the "Russell Toll Bridge" on it, so he had to see the bridge that was named for him.

-- The Russell side of the bridge was where Ohioans went to buy cheap cigarettes, and the Ohio side was where Kentuckians went to buy Ohio Lottery tickets.

For those who aren't from the OH-KY-WV Tri-State Area, Oakley Collins was a longtime member of the Ohio General Assembly. He passed away in or around 1986. He directed a lot of state money to his district, especially for public schools and higher education. He had detractors, as would anyone who was in politics that long, but these next two days belong to him, so we'll let that be for now.

Whether people will call the new bridge the Oakley Collins Bridge remains to be seen. Around here, if something new replaces something old, people tend to keep the old name, especially if the new name belongs or belonged to a politician. We're just contrary that way, I guess.

I hope to go down for the dedication of the new bridge. The old one is the oldest highway bridge between Wheeling and Cincinnati, and several others have come and gone in the time it's been in service. It wasn't the first highway bridge between Wheeling and Cincinnati. Two in the Marietta-Parkersburg area had that distinction, but they were both replaced and demolished in the 1980s.

The Ironton-Russell Bridge's closing means its demolition is near. There has been an effort to save the bridge as a pedestrian crossing, as the new bridge does not have a sidewalk. The problem has been money, and if anyone has come forth with the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to keep the old bridge going, I've not heard about it.

According to an article in The Daily Independent of Ashland KY, demolition will mostly be done by a crane lowering pieces into barges. Bringing down bridges with explosives is a neat sight, but this bridge likely is too close to houses on the Russell side and businesses on the Ohio side for that to be done safely.

So here's to an old bridge. Adam and I went down to Ironton today to get a few last pictures of it in service. I wanted to get a picture of the sun setting behind the bridge, creating a silhouette. But I forgot that to the west of the bridge is a big hill, and there was no way to get the photo I wanted. The next best thing would be to get the bridge lit up by the light of the setting sun, but the western sky was cloudy.

But Providence was with us, and the clouds cleared out to give us five minutes of shooting time. The photo at the top of this post is one that we got.

As I snapped away, Adam noticed that for a few seconds there was no traffic on the bridge, meaning there was no noise of cars and trucks driving over the metal grate deck. "That's what it will sound like tomorrow," he said of the silence.

Yes, it will.

M/V Detroit at Catlettsburg

On our way to somewhere else, Adam and I stopped at Catlettsburg harbor to see what we could see. We got to see the Detroit crossing the river from Ohio to Kentucky lightboat.

It was a good start to the afternoon.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cleaning out the photo closet

If I hoard anything, it's pictures. To me, a photograph is a moment in time captured, whether for today or forever. I have a hard time parting with pictures, because in some ways it's like deliberately forgetting a certain moment of my life that at one time I thought should live forever.

In recent months I've gone through prints from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Most of those I have tossed (actually, those I have put in a box to be tossed) are of people who once were friends but who have drifted away. Some I am Facebook friends with, and I have tossed fewer of those than I have of people whose whereabouts I don't know and really have little desire to know. I tend to keep pictures of friends who have passed away. If I knew how to contact their surviving family, I might offer the prints to them, but in some cases they have no surviving blood relatives. Most of them are people my children have never met, and unless they desire at some point in the future to reconstruct my life year by year, they will have no burning interest in who these people are.

That brings me to my river photos of the digital era. To get a good photo, you need to take a dozen. If you are disciplined and frugal, you keep the ones you really like and delete the rest. My problem is that I really like too many of them, even when there are only minor differences from one shot to the next.

Here are three pictures I took in November and December of last year.

The first one was a test shot for the one I wanted to get when the boat was about a half mile downriver. The vegetation in the foreground was in the way, and that empty at the head of the tow didn't help, either.

In the second one, dark was setting in and I failed to adjust my camera settings accordingly.

The third one was just off, perhaps because the image was not as sharp as it could have been.

Before deleting them (which I have yet to do), I decided to play with each image for a couple of minutes to see how they turned out. This is what I got.

Maybe they work better now, and maybe I'll keep them.

Instead of deleting 10,000 pictures, I probably could save up some money and go out and buy another hard drive and let my heirs worry about what to do with all of them. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

More litter

For some reason, I like to document the kinds of litter I find on the Ohio River bank. Like this.

I don't know about where the rest of you live, but around here, there's never a shortage of litter to shoot.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bridge at sunset ... again

From one of my favorite spots along the Ohio River (I have about a hundred of them) ...

This is the Robert C. Byrd Bridge (known locally as the 6th Street Bridge, because that was the name of the one it replaced and a lot of people resent Byrd's name on so many things around here) at Huntington WV.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Dogtooth Bend on the Upper Mississippi

My knowledge of the Upper Mississippi is very limited. I had never been to St. Louis until three and a half  years ago, and I was surprised at how narrow the river was there.

If you look at maps of the Mississippi at the confluence of the Ohio, you see all that water coming out of the Ohio changes things on the Mississippi. When your flow more than doubles at one point, things happen. If anyone can direct me to a good site or book explaining how the Ohio changes the Mississippi both above and below the confluence, I would appreciate their passing it along.

Now, having said all that, I found this article about how the Upper might be carving a new channel from about Mile 15 to Mile 34, in an area called Dogtooth Bend. The reason this comes to the attention of an Ohio River site is here in this part of the conclusion:

The USACE/MRC mission includes the maintenance of the mainline levees that protect Cairo, Illinois, and the Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas bottomlands and the maintenance of navigation on the Mississippi River. The USACE cannot strengthen the existing Len SmallFayville levee without increasing the risk of losing their own mainline levees (Cairo levee and floodwall, the Commerce to Birds Point levee and the New Madrid Floodway setback levee). If the Cairo floodwall and levee were to fail, it would put nearly 3,000 residents and 400 structures at risk. If the Commerce to Birds Point levee or the New Madrid Floodway setback levee were to fail, 800,000 ha (2,000,000 ac) in Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas bottomlands could be flooded with both crops and soils damaged. The opening of the New Madrid Floodway can be used to reduce the pressure and peak height by as much as 1.2 m (4 ft) on confluence area levees (Olson and Morton 2012). The floodway was used in 1937 and 2011. There is a need for additional floodwater storage in the confluence area of the greater Ohio and Mississippi rivers (Olson and Morton 2016a, 2016b, 2016c). A regional effort on both sides of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers is needed to strategically identify floodplain areas that could provide temporary water storage and policy incentives for landowners of low-lying lands to profitably invest in crops and income alternatives.

Some people might be willing to write off Cairo and say the feds should buy out the town, the same as it has bought out individual properties in the floodplain in the middle part of the Ohio River. As for me, I'm not ready to say Cairo should be destroyed as long as there is hope it can recover from the problems that have plagued it for sixty years or more.

However, what's happening at Dogtooth Bend -- and what has happened elsewhere on the Upper that is driving the changes there -- can affect many other places and needs to be watched closely.

(If that sounds like something you would read in a newspaper editorial, please remember that I used to write editorials for a living).

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Groundwater along the river

Have you ever wondered about how the Ohio River affects groundwater near its banks? Whether water from the Ohio seeps into the water table and affects the quality of wells nearby? No? Well, I have.

Here is a description of how the Ohio River interacts with groundwater near its banks as described the publication "Assessment of Hydrogeologic Terrains, Well-Construction Characteristics, Groundwater Hydraulics, and WaterQuality and Microbial Data for Determination of SurfaceWater-Influenced Groundwater Supplies in West Virginia" by Mark D. Kozar and Katherine S. Paybins, published by the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Alluvial aquifers bordering the Ohio River in western West Virginia are also potentially highly susceptible to contamination because these alluvial aquifers can receive significant recharge from the adjacent Ohio River. Any potential contaminants that may be present in the river have the potential to enter the aquifer and contaminate wells completed within the sand and gravel alluvial sediments within which the wells are completed. These same alluvial sediments, however, help to retard the movement of bacteria and other potentially pathogenic organisms, such as Cryptosporidia and Giardia lamblia, into the aquifer. As a result, samples from alluvial aquifers bordering the Ohio River and elsewhere within the State do not commonly test positive for indicator bacteria, such as total coliform, fecal coliform, or Escherichia coli (E. coli). The alluvial sediments do not, however, provide assimilative capacity with respect to water soluble compounds such as nitrate and certain volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Therefore, the Ohio River alluvial aquifers are highly susceptible to organic compounds present in the river or on the land surface near a well. These aquifers are also susceptible to nitrate contamination from fertilizers, pesticides, and manure, which are commonly used on the fertile agricultural soils present on terraces along the Ohio River."
The entire document is nearly 70 pages, and if you have any curiosity about how the river affects the source of drinking water for a number of people along its banks whose water systems rely on groundwater, it's worth a read.

Diverging from this, reading the report and coming across the definition of a Ranney well took me back to 1978. In January of that year, a Chessie System train derailed in Point Pleasant, WV, and spilled about 20,000 gallons of a material called epichlorohydrin near the city's water intake well. The city had to close that wellfield and find a new source of water. I remember covering several city council meetings after the spill and listening to the mayor talk about the Ranney well field north of town. If memory serves, it had been developed to supply DNT (dinitrotoluene, used in the production on trinitrotoluene, or TNT) during World War II. The DNT production area was one of the places where the infamous Mothman was first seen, I think.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, if you drove up Route 7 on the Ohio side you could see some concrete or stone block structures that were part of the DNT plant's Ranney well system. I don't recall having seen them in recent years, so I don't know if they're still standing.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Another boat picture

By now my family has gotten used to the idea that when we go somewhere, I take a camera in case we see a boat worth getting a picture of. In this case, it was the Nancy Sturgis at Virginia Point Park in Kenova WV.

This was taken about three minutes after the sun dropped over the horizon, and there was no direct sunlight left. I like the original in color, but as usual with Crounse boats, I tried it in black and white, and it came out okay. And as usual with pictures of Crounse boats that I take in color and convert to black and white, I left the yellow on the nameboard. Why? I don't know. I just like it that way.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

M/V AEP Legacy at Belleville

Here's another one from a recent trip upriver. I thought I would play with it a little to see how it looked.

There are more coming.