Citizens express concerns at public forum for bridge

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The public voiced concerns, questions and even praise to Georgia Department of Transportation staff Thursday afternoon at an open house for the construction of a replacement for the defunct Broad Avenue bridge.

J.C. and Sallie Odom Jr. said, after looking at both of the proposed designs for the new bridge, a standard girder style and a segmental style, they both decided in favor of the segmental design.

"I think the aesthetics of the segmental bridge will look better next to the (Turtle Grove) park," said J.C. Odom.

His wife, Sallie, agreed that the segmental was the better-looking option of the two proposed designs.

"I like the idea of the segmental. It looks like an older style bridge and it seems to be safer," she said.

Odom said he does have some concerns about the height of the railing on both the designs that were on display at the open house Thursday.

The Albany resident, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, said taller people might be a bit wary of walking along the bridge with such short railing.

The Odom's however said they were happy that the process has been open and that the community has a chance to be heard.

"I really like the part where you are involved," said J.C. Odom. "It makes a difference when you know your opinion is counted."

Kenneth Cutts, District Director for Congressman Sanford Bishop's Office, also praised the transparency of the process.

"The community has has a tremendous amount of input in the process.

Everybody (GDOT staff members) I have spoken to today have been really knowledgeable about the project and what the timeline is going to be," said Cutts.

Earl Crawford said the bridge project is one of immediate concern to him personally. The East Albany resident said ever since the Broad Bridge was closed in 2009 commuting back and forth to his residence in East Albany has been tiresome.

"I think it would be a good idea to get it back as quickly as possible," he said. "The traffic has been real heavy and it has been difficult trying to get back and forth -- you have to go out-of-your-way to get back home."

The bridge was closed in February 2009 when Georgia Department of Transportation divers discovered broken and missing infrastructure elements on the bridge supports. Since its closing, traffic has been forced onto the Oglethorpe Boulevard bridge and the Oakridge Avenue bridge to compensate.

GDOT Communications Officer Craig Solomon said after a decision is made on the bridge design, construction is tentatively slated to begin in Fall 2011.

One of the biggest hurdles for the bridge project, Solomon said Thursday, is funding.

"There is a funding issue with the Department of Transportation right now and we have been working with the city to try and address this issue," he said.

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 repair it.

On April 9, the Albany City Commission tentatively authorized more than $240,000 to be spent on pre-construction planning. That amount is the city's required 20 percent match to GDOT's 80 percent, officials said.

According to information from GDOT staff, some design elements of both proposed bridge designs includes 11 foot travel lanes, 4 foot bike lanes and a 10 foot sidewalk that would incorporate bench seating and lamppost lighting.

GDOT Project Manager Clinton Ford said written comments can be sent in through the mail to GDOT offices in Atlanta or made online at www.dot.ga.gov. All comments will be made a part of the project record.

For those who were unable to make Thursday's open house, the displays and plans will be available for review to the public until May 9 at the GDOT District Four, Area Five office at 2060 Newton Road or online at www.dot.ga.gov.