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.