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Cold prompts closure of Ironton-Russell Bridge

Jan. 06, 2014 @ 10:54 PM

IRONTON -- The 92-year-old Ironton-Russell Bridge was closed to traffic Monday night until further notice.

Citing concerns about the bridge steel in extremely cold temperatures, the bridge was closed at 10 p.m. Monday. The two-lane bridge carries some 1,100 vehicles per day between Ironton and Russell, Ky.

"With a forecast that calls for an overnight low temperature in Ironton at or nearly 5 degrees below zero and a wind chill of approximately minus 22 degrees, we have decided to close the Ironton Russell Bridge in advance rather than wait until the overnight hours," said Vaughn Wilson, the department's District 9 deputy director.

"I understand ODOT's safety considerations," said Mayor Rich Blankenship. "The closing is an inconvenience to many. Hopefully, it'll be a short-term closure. I'm sure it's they're making the right decision. It's better to be safe than sorry."

Once temperatures reach 5 degrees, department officials closely monitor temperatures at the bridge for possible stress. The bridge was closed several years ago for a short time when temperatures neared zero.

The bridge is safe for travel with temperatures of more than 5 degrees, but the span's steel truss structure is not wholly guarded against temperatures below zero. Temperatures were anticipated below that Monday night.

"It's going to mess me up tomorrow," Tim Gearhart, owner of Tim's News in downtown Ironton, said Monday afternoon. He normally attends a Kiwanis meeting in Russell on Tuesdays. When the bridge was closed once before, the trip took about 90 minutes instead of the 10 to 15 minutes it normally takes, he said.

Don Moore, director of the electronic media department at Ohio University-Southern, said his commute from Argillite, Ky., to Ironton will take an extra five to 10 minutes on Tuesday. "I'll cross over the Jesse Stuart Bridge at the Greenup Dam," he said. "It's several more miles, but only takes a few minutes more."

The Ohio Department of Transportation is detouring motorists to the bridges connecting Ashland and Coal Grove, Ohio, about six miles to the east.

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