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.