UPDATE 5/3/12 @ 12:00 p.m. .
IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) — It was big day for everyone who regularly drives the Ironton-Russell Bridge.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Thursday in downtown Ironton signaling the beginning of construction of the long-awaited bridge replacement project.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and other state and local officials took part in the ceremony.
More than 800 people were on site for the big event.
The Ironton-Russell Bridge replacement project calls for replacing the existing bridge that connects the two communities via their downtown by relocating it between Second and Jefferson streets in downtown Ironton and the U.S. 23 viaduct south of Russell.
The project, led by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) also includes demolishing the current bridge when the new one is open.
“Few things promote regional growth, development and cooperation like safe, modern highways and bridges,” Gov. Beshear said. “Ironton, Ohio, and Russell, Ky., are separated by a great river. But thanks to a bridge, they have been joined as neighbors for generations. The new Ironton-Russell Bridge will preserve those social, cultural and economic connections.”
“Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy, and it is essential that we make investments in a system that will only make us stronger,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray said. “So while the Ironton-Russell Bridge has served the communities well for the past 90 years, it’s time to replace it with a modern, updated structure to carry goods and people over the great Ohio River.”
While Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking marked the start of the multi-year project, construction began in early March, with contractors clearing the banks of both state shores, drilling shafts for the Kentucky abutment and laying foundations for piers in Ohio.
ODOT awarded a contract in January to Brayman Construction Corporation for $81 million. The project has a four-year window for total completion, with an interim completion in the fall of 2015.
Ohio Governor John Kasich and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will participate in the event set for 11 a.m. at Depot Square in Ironton.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced that Brayman Construction Corporation was awarded the $81,266,742 contract to build the bridge.
The project calls for replacing the existing bridge that connects Ironton, Ohio with Russell, Ky. by relocating it between Second and Jefferson streets in downtown Ironton and the U.S. 23 viaduct south of Russell. The project also includes demolition of the existing or old bridge upon completion of the new structure.
Site preparation work on the project began earlier this spring.
The project is expected to be completed by fall of 2015.
The Ohio Department of Transportation announced Thursday that Brayman Construction Corporation was awarded the $81,266,742 contract. That bid is $3 million less than the state's final estimate.
Brayman Construction Corporation is headquartered in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania.
"We're very pleased to award this project, and we're looking forward to the start of construction," said District 9 Deputy Director Vaughn Wilson. "This a very important project, not only for the department but also for the people of Ironton and Russell, and it culminates years of hard work, patience and diligence."
The project calls for replacing the existing bridge that connects Ironton, Ohio, with Russell, Kentucky, by relocating it between Second and Jefferson streets in downtown Ironton and the U.S. 23 viaduct south of Russell. The project also includes demolition of the existing or old bridge upon completion of the new structure.
Although a start date has yet to be determined, it is anticipated that the contractors will begin preliminary site operations and mobilizing crews by early spring. The project has a four-year window for total completion, with an interim completion in the fall of 2015.
Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship says bids will start being accepted mid-December and they should be awarded before the end of the year.
Blankenship says the possibility of a public-private funding partnership is off the table.
The new bridge is expected to cost about $85 million.
Bidding was set to begin for the new bridge on Oct. 6, 2012. The existing Ironton-Russell Bridge is said to be the oldest Ohio River span for motor vehicle traffic between Pittsburgh and Cairo, Ill.
In August, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced it would delay the project to look into a private-public partnership for funding, in lieu of taking bids for the project.
After two meetings, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship says ODOT officials might only delay the project a few weeks.
“We've been told for the last two and a half years October 6, 2012, was the bid opening date. I can live with two or three weeks, but six months we just can't live with that," Blankenship said.
Blankenship believes safety, not funding, needs to be the priority.
"I think the whole Tri-State area is facing that same situation, but they have the money in place in the state of Ohio for this bridge and should use it, keep their word and do what they say they'll do," Blankenship said.
ODOT officials have decided to fast-track the project, saying funding sources for a new bridge will be available this fiscal year, which runs through June 2012. However, the mayor expects sooner.
"It appears that they will be finding new methods of funding this project to be bid out shortly after October," Blankenship said.”
Blankenship expects to hear in the next three weeks, which funding option ODOT plans to use.
At the same time, ODOT says its still considering all potential funding options for the bridge, including a Public Private Partnership.
ODOT made the announcement Wednesday following Tuesday’s meeting with Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship.
“Mayor Blankenship has passionately represented this project and the people of Ironton and has made it clear the Ironton-Russell bridge is a key priority for the community,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “We are committed to making a decision on how best to move forward in providing a safe, reliable bridge in the quickest, most efficient way by the end of October.”
According to a news release, ODOT has hired a team of experts to look at the possibility of Public Private Partnership opportunities statewide, who are now specifically taking a close look at the best and fastest way to build the Ironton-Russell bridge, Wray commented.
The next steps are as follows:
“As we move through this process we will keep the Mayor and the city of Ironton informed of where we stand,” said Wray. “We look forward to continuing to work with him on this important project.”
Blankenship said construction originally wasn't expected to begin until June 2012, but could begin by later this fall. He said he met Tuesday with Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray in Columbus.
The city of Ironton will know in three weeks if construction will be funded by a public/private agreement or by traditional bid award.
"We're very excited about this news," Blankenship said.
Despite some rumors circulating, motorists will not have to pay toll on the new bridge, Blankenship said.
He said the new bridge is expected to be completed by 2015. The bridge will replace an aging span that links Ironton with Russell, Ky.
The new bridge will be situated between Second Street in downtown Ironton and U.S. Route 23 near its intersection with Kentucky 244 (Bellefonte Street) in Russell.
The project is expected to go to bid in October. The current bridge will remain open during construction of the new bridge.
Representatives from ODOT will be on hand to answer questions from the general public.
The meeting will take place Tuesday, February 1, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Lawrence County ODOT Highway Maintenance Facility, 450 Commerce Drive, in Ironton.