By DAVID E. MALLOY
IRONTON, Ohio — The Oakley Clark Collins Bridge over the Ohio River connecting Ironton and Russell, Kentucky, has won an award a 2017 Bridge Award of Excellence in the category of long span and cable-stayed bridges, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The bridge, which opened last year, received a lot of notice in the past two months when the department installed blue lights instead of white to light the span, according to Mayor Katrina Keith.
City officials asked the department for colored lights instead of white, Keith said Monday. The department initially turned down the request, but subsequently agreed to the change after the cost of LED lighting went down, according to the mayor.
“They’ve done an excellent job,” Keith said of the bridge design. The blue lights also could be responsible for an increase in the number of vehicles crossing the span, she said.
The traffic count has increased from 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day.
“We’ve had a lot of people come to see it,” Keith said. Some students from Ohio University’s main campus in Athens have made the trip down to see the bridge lights, she said.
“This is an example of their decision on the lighting helping economic development with more people coming to town,” she said.
“This is indeed a fitting tribute to my father’s memory in recognition of his lifelong devotion to public service,” said Ironton Municipal Judge O. Clark Collins.
His father served some 40 years in the state legislature, including a stint as Ohio Senate Education Chairman. While there, Collins was instrumental in gaining funding for the first phase of what now is Ohio University Southern. Collins said his dad was known for advocating legislation that created the state’s vocational school system.
“I don’t know of anyone who touched more lives in southeastern Ohio than Dad did,” Collins said.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Dad,” Collins said. “He was a man who had humble beginnings on a Decatur (Township) dairy farm. He worked his way through life as a miner, a farmer, educator, coach and ultimately a legislator.”
The transportation department’s District 9 office with its team of designers, contractors, engineers and consultants have been recognized for outstanding performance in the field of bridge construction for the Collins bridge, according to a news release.
The bridge was cited at the eighth biennial American Segmental Bridge Institute awards competition, according to the release.
“It is indeed an honor to have the project selected for this award,” said Vaughn Wilson, the department’s District 9 director. “I congratulate our team from ODOT, Brayman Construction, FIGG, Finley Engineering Group, AECOM and VSL for their efforts to deliver a successful project that preserves our transportation system in southern Ohio and serves the people on both sides of the river.”
The bridge institute is a nonprofit organization to provide a forum for bridge designers, according to the release. It was one of eight designs selected as outstanding examples of segmental concrete bridge construction, according to the release.
Bridge institute judges said the department’s longest span bridge is “an amazing technical and aesthetic achievement,” according to the release.
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