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Published: Friday, 12/10/2004

I-280 bridge is Veterans' Glass City Skyway

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Ohio legislators yesterday named the new I-280 bridge over the Maumee River the Veterans' Glass City Skyway.

The naming of the bridge was inserted into a bill to create a special "Choose Life'' license plate that was sought by abortion-rights opponents.

The House voted 76-15 to approve the bill. At 2:10 a.m., without debate, the Senate voted 19-10 to agree with House amendments and shipped the bill to Gov. Bob Taft.

Mr. Taft is expected to sign the bill into law, said Orest Holubec, the governor's press secretary.

State Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) introduced the bill to name the bridge in November, 2003. Two years earlier, the naming subcommittee of the Maumee River Task Force recommended that the bridge be named the Veterans Memorial Bridge or Glass City Skyway.

"It's a name that will adequately describe the bridge's design while honoring those who served our country," Mr. Olman said yesterday.

Among the suggestions put forth were to name the bridge for the late Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes, whose contributions to Toledo during his 16 years as governor included the Medical College of Ohio and downtown's Government Center. But sentiment for naming the structure after a single person lost out.

Other names suggested were Citizens' Crossing, Crossroads of America, Great Lakes Gateway, Mariners' Bridge, and Toledo Renaissance Bridge.

The bridge will replace the Craig Memorial Bridge, which carries I-280 traffic over the Maumee River north of downtown.

The Craig has caused numerous traffic backups in recent years because of mechanical and electrical malfunctions and because it is a drawbridge that must be raised periodically for Great Lakes cargo ships. It was named for Lt. Robert Craig, a World War II Medal of Honor winner.

On Feb. 16, four ironworkers died and four others were injured when a 1.8 million-pound truss crane collapsed at the construction site. A memorial in a park next to the new span will honor the bridge construction workers.

The bridge-naming bill passed the House in November, 2003. After the Senate didn't take action this month, the measure was inserted into a bill that renames several highways.

That measure also includes the provision to create a "Choose Life'' license plate.

Proceeds will be used to promote adoption programs, largely through crisis pregnancy centers, said state Sen. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana).

The bill creates a fund in which $20 from the sale of each "Choose Life" license plate would flow to private, nonprofit groups that counsel pregnant women about adoption services but do not provide information about abortion. Besides the two words, the plate would carry a design from the Florida-based nonprofit group Choose Life Inc.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League Pro-Choice Ohio, said her group is considering a lawsuit against the state. "The state has engaged in favoritism in providing a venue for one viewpoint and not another," she said.

The Senate used a bill sponsored by state Rep. Jim Hoops (R., Napoleon) to make state law mirror recent changes to the federal No Child Left Behind law.

State Sen. Robert Gardner (R., Madison) said if Ohio doesn't change state law, school districts would continue to be placed in that category if they fail to make annual progress in even a single grade or subject.

A change in state law would decrease the number of districts labeled "district improvement status" from 150 to about 50.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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