City approves early funding for Broad bridge repairs

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission tentatively approved spending more than $240,000 in pre-construction planning funds to keep the rebuilding of the structurally unsound Broad Avenue bridge on track.

The bridge has been shut down since February 2009 when Georgia Department of Transportation divers discovered broken and missing infrastructure elements on the bridge supports.

GDOT officials have decided to authorize funding more than $7 million to completely rebuild the bridge after engineers determined it would be too costly to simply repair it.

Commissioners took the next step in the process Tuesday by tentatively authorizing more than $240,000 be spent on pre-construction planning. That amount is the city's required 20 percent match to GDOT's 80 percent, officials say. The total cost to local taxpayers is expected to be about $1.4 million.

"Getting this bridge open is just too vital," Ward 2 Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard said during the meeting. She and Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard's political districts are in East Albany and have been the most adversely affected by the bridge closure, they said.

Since the bridge has been closed, traffic has been forced onto the Oglethorpe Boulevard bridge and the Oakridge Avenue bridge to compensate. During discussion, the possible construction of a fourth bridge, connecting East and West Albany at Clark Avenue, was broached by Ward 5 Commissioner Bob Langstaff.

While that bridge is on the GDOT's long-term traffic plans, cost estimates are hovering around $100 million with construction unlikely to start within the next 15 years, City Engineer Bruce Maples said.

"I hope that it will happen at some point during my lifetime, but with funds like they are at the state level, I don't think it will be a big priority for GDOT," Maples said.