After being told the U.S. Grant Bridge would not be closed down for maintenance, the latest word is that the bridge will be closed during maintenance after all.
Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen attended a meeting with Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials in Chillicothe recently and that is where he received the news.
“It was at that time I was informed of the intent to close the Grant Bridge on Aug. 29 (2016) for two months,” Allen said. “In prior discussions they had said they were going to leave the bridge open and maintain traffic, to which I always questioned how they were going to do that – how you are going to do an epoxy overlay with people driving across the bridge shaking the bridge.”
Originally the city had been told a single lane would be utilized with the possible use of traffic lights. That has all changed.
“In that meeting it was stated that was a mistake and that it always had to be closed to traffic,” Allen said. “We didn’t have any input into it, so the fact that they’re closing it right before River Days and for two months, is out of our hands.”
Allen said they did have conversations about ODOT’s need to communicate with the public.
“You’ll have Shawnee State University basketball games going on and other events at the university and a lot of people come from the south up to the university,” Allen said. “Now that bridge is going to be closed. So they’re going to have to go to the Carl Perkins (Bridge) and then have to find their way back.”
Allen did not forsee any additional problems.
“Hopefully it goes smoothly and is only closed for two months if they don’t run into unforseen problems,” Allen said.
Last year, during River Days, the Carl Perkins Bridge was closed while it was being painted. At that time all traffic from Kentucky was rerouted to the Grant Bridge and Joseph Pratt of Main Street Portsmouth said he did not remember it being an issue.
Members of the River Days Committee are not anticipating any serious problems from the closure.
“I don’t think so,” River Days Chairman Tim Angel said. “Just some of the logistics with the fireworks. They picked the worst time to do this, for us anyway. We’re hoping that people will use the Carl Perkins and they won’t obstruct any people coming to the festival. It might give us some challenges when it comes to do the fireworks, but we’ll get it done one way or the other.”
Teresa Bratton of the River Days Committee agrees. “Most everybody, if they’re coming from Kentucky, can go over the other (Carl Perkins) Bridge. I don’t think it will be a problem for us. We’re not anticipating any problems.”
Portsmouth River Days is held each year beginning the Thursday before Labor Day (Sept. 1). The festival opens on Thursday and runs through Labor Day Monday (Sept. 4). River Days is held on the riverfront at the Court Street Landing near the historic Boneyfiddle district of Portsmouth, Ohio. There is free nightly entertainment on the riverfront stage, arts and crafts, mid-way rides, food and more. On Thursday and Friday nights they have music all evening long with music beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Grand Parade begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning with the Queens Pageant at the Vern Riffe Center at Shawnee State University at 6 p.m. and entertainment at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. On Sunday night there will be activities all day long with evening concerts beginning at 6:30 p.m. ending with a Fireworks Extravaganza at 10 p.m. The annual Antique and Collector Car Show wraps things up on Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.