YOUNGSTOWN Bridge proposal gets rave reviews

ODOT is considering decorating the bridge with YSU colors and insignia.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Local reaction was favorable to the design of the replacement for the Blue Bridge, which carries the Madison Avenue Expressway (state Route 193) over Salt Springs Road, railroad tracks and the Mahoning River.
"It's about time they come here in Youngstown," to spend money on transportation improvements, Carlo Ponzio said about the Ohio Department of Transportation.
"I think it's excellent. It's a new bridge first of all, better access in and out," said Ponzio, business agent for Roofers Local 71 on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
"I think it would be great," John Chito, owner of Star Roofing and Remodeling Inc. on Martin Luther King Boulevard, said of the new bridge design. Chito said the new bridge will offer "easy access" to and from nearby thoroughfares.
He and Ponzio were interviewed at a Monday meeting at Youngstown State University, where ODOT sought public comment on the project.
The bridge, built in 1966 and rated by ODOT as structurally deficient, carries an average of 25,000 vehicles a day and is known as the Blue Bridge because of the color of the paint on its steel structure.
ODOT plans to replace it with a new and wider steel plate girder bridge with a reinforced concrete deck and substructures, which would be similar to the Market Street Bridge over the Mahoning River.
Here's the plan
The state agency expects to advertise for bids this fall, with the $13 million bridge replacement project to begin in the spring of 2004 and continue for 21/2 years, according to Jennifer Richmond, ODOT public information officer.
The cost is being paid for by federal and state funds.
Bridge traffic will be maintained with one lane in each direction during two phases of construction, but connecting ramps to and from I-680 will be closed for part of that time.
It would cost $13 million to rehabilitate the old bridge for 15 additional years of use, or to build a new bridge to last 75 years, so ODOT elected to build the new bridge, said Noel F. Mehlo Jr., ODOT environmental specialist.
He also said ODOT officials are considering decorating the bridge, which will be a major corridor of entry to the university, with YSU colors and insignia.
At least two dozen people attended the meeting, including representatives of YSU and St. Elizabeth Health Center, city and county officials, YSU students and nearby residents and businesspeople.

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