RUSSELL, Ky. — One year ago today it opened to great fanfare, and since then the new bridge between Russell and Ironton has changed the two towns it connects.
Recently christened the Oakley C. Collins Memorial Bridge after a long-time Lawrence County, Ohio state legislator, the span bypasses downtown Russell and siphons traffic directly to U.S. 23.
Conversely, the Ironton approach curves gently down to Second Street, one of the city’s main downtown thoroughfares, unlike the cramped and narrow ramp from the old bridge.
Downtown Russell traffic has dipped to about 60 percent of its former level, according to Mayor William Hopkins.
The drop is less than originally expected, however, he said. Most downtown businesses remain open, including its two convenience stores, and the senior center brings in downtown traffic several days a week. “Downtown is not out of the woods yet but we are still working on things . . . we’re still plugging along.”
The reverse is true in Ironton, according to Mayor Katrina Keith. Downtown traffic has gone up to the tune of about 5,000 vehicles per day, and new business prospects are making inquiries monthly, she said.