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Group hopes to save bridge

The Broad Avenue Bridge was condemned by the Georgia DOT after major damage to the footings was discovered.

The proposed replacement bridge for the Broad Avenue bridge.

The proposed replacement bridge for the Broad Avenue bridge.

ALBANY — A grassroots effort has emerged to save the Broad Avenue bridge from demolition.

While it may be too little, too late with the bridge set to come down in the spring, the movement may have picked up support from an unexpected source that could lend the effort credibility.

The state, in conjunction with the city of Albany, intends to demolish the bridge and build a new, steel and girder bridge. Bids will be let out in mid-January for the $9.1 million project.

Largely using the power of social media, longtime Albany resident Betty Rehberg is urging local, state and federal officials to reconsider a decision made more than two years ago to dismantled the bridge and replace it, after large chunks of the footings of the bridge had been eroded away to the point state officials declared the bridge to be unsafe even for pedestrian traffic.

In a letter to local officials, Rehberg urges reconsideration of the demolition of bridge, arguing that it could more easily and cheaply be made secure for pedestrian traffic, which would keep the bridge’s unique architecture and history intact.

“There is a growing group of Albanians that do not want to see our bridge destroyed. It would be nice to have something left in Albany that is actually still standing and not only caught in photographs or our memories,” Rehberg writes.

“It would make a great pedestrian bridge and could be a really nice venue for downtown. Festivals on the bridge, dinners on the bridge, even art displays etc. That bridge is lovely and is photographed every day by people that recognize it. The cities with the most successful downtown’s and the most tourists understand that keeping charm and history is vital. That bridge has both.”

Rehberg points to an effort in Columbus to revitalize its 14th Street bridge as an example of how the bridge could be saved rather than demolished and rebuilt.

According to the city of Columbus-Muscogee County Planning Department, the bridge was closed to pedestrian traffic due to “structural deficiencies” with its footings, much like the Broad Avenue Bridge, and is in the midst of a $5.2 million overhaul that will enhance the streetscape, add new sidewalks, and redevelop the surface of the bridge. Improvements also call for the reconstruction of the bridge footings and scour protection, according to the information on the planning department’s website.

Additionally, Columbus is funding a $4.4 million plaza project in conjunction with the bridge work. The project is supposed to be completed by next Spring.

And it would appear that Rehberg and her 323 “friends” on the “Save the Broad Avenue Bridge” Facebook page aren’t alone in their sentiments.

Wednesday morning, state Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, told those who attended the Albany-Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Rise-N-Shine breakfast that there is “still room for change” in the bridge’s future.

“I think there is still room for changing it if the community shows a will for that to happen,” Fullerton told the group.

Albany City Engineer Bruce Maples, who has been the go-between for the city to the Georgia Department of Transportation that is the project manager for the demolition and construction of the bridge, said that despite the fact that the bids were supposed to be let out in December, it isn’t too late to go in a different direction.

“It’s never too late,” he said. “But the state is the project manager and most of this is being funded by them.”

Maples said that GDOT originally planned to rehabilitate the bridge and did cost estimates to repair it.

To repair the footings, he said, GDOT engineers said it would cost roughly $4.5 million because they’d have to build coffer dams and install caissons to fix the eroded footings.

For the parts of the bridge above-water, Maples said ,the state estimated that it would cost several more million to repair damage to the arches and the road surface in order to make the bridge stable.

In total, GDOT estimated it would cost in excess of $9 million to rehabilitate the bridge. Doing so would increase the lifespan of the bridge by 35 years, he said, compared to a new bridge, which would be roughly 100 years.

“From a cost perspective they’re relatively in the same ballpark,” Maples said. “But when you look at the life expectancy ... they’d get more bang out of their buck building a new bridge than rehabilitating the current one, is what I’m hearing.”

Comments

Albanite 2 years, 7 months ago

Stupidity abounds! Just build the new bridge. It's a no-brainer.

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tommybeall 2 years, 7 months ago

unfortunately stupidity does indeed abound.. re: your comment. "albanites" like yourself are not needed in the community.. Be quiet and sit in your own misery, or leave.

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Albanite 2 years, 7 months ago

Unfortunately TommyBeall, morons like you need guidance from those of us who are best informed. STUPIDITY is wasting money to refurbish a condemned and unsafe bridge that will only last 35 years - instead of spending the same amount for a safe bridge that will last 100 years. YOUR kind of thinking is why Albany has turned ito a toilet.

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

My point is Albany has turned into a mess, we can try to be more like Savannah or keep getting more like Detroit, you want that?

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tommybeall 2 years, 7 months ago

obviously you're missing the whole point of the article.. build a new bridge for what? and again, how are you best informed?

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

They want to build two! We need 4 bridges for cars total? 3 of them very close together? Let this one stay for pedestrian use, build the one farther north if they think we need it, but you want 2 new bridges???

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

Excuse me, that would be FIVE auto bridges, I forgot Oakridge.

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

You cannot see the appeal, the potential in this bridge? Look at the ugly flat trestle bridge they want to replace it with. Really????

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by BettyR

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Engineer 2 years, 7 months ago

Personally, I don't like the aesthetics of that design.

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Cartman 2 years, 7 months ago

Repairing the footings enough to make it a pedestrian bridge would cost the least of all the options. The other option is; the state build the ugly expensive bridge. Tough call. Can we put the un-erected arch which is in storage over the new bridge? We can name the existing arch after Tommy Chatmon and the new arch after Don Buie.

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whattheheck 2 years, 7 months ago

No. The new arch has to be named after Johnson. Then folks can visit and, after seeing the famed Chatmon arch, will surely ask to see our Johnson!

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billstrickland 2 years, 7 months ago

Crossings at the downtown part of the Flint River are critical to traffic locally and in Southwest Georgia. In the event that the Oglethorpe bridge would need to be closed for repair in the future (a real possibility), or even if it is closed temporarily because of accident or other event, the additional costs of rerouting traffic north (to the Liberty Expressway crossing) or south (to the Oakridge Drive crossing) would probably be great. (Such costs include traffic delays, traffic accidents, fuel use, business interruption, public safety vehicle access, etc.) Having a second viable crossing in the downtown area would eliminate much of those costs. I think repairing/replacing the Broad Avenue bridge is good insurance and worth the expense.

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

They were planning TWO new bridges. We do not need 3 auto bridges downtown and one on the bypass. Let this one stay, build the one at Society and Clark if we need it.

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

I forgot Oakridge. They want a total of 5 auto bridges.

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JustAnotherVoice 2 years, 7 months ago

Yes, Albany 4TH POOREST CITY IN THE UNITED STATES waste your money on rebuilding a bridge that has been condemned by the DOT!

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ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 7 months ago

"a great pedestrian bridge...festivals on the bridge, dinner on the bridge..." Well, I think I've heard it all! This is a joke, right? Tomorrow is December 1st, not April 1st. Geez

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Jack_Frost 2 years, 7 months ago

Right...because someone having a different opinion than you must certainly be joking. And people wonder what's wrong with this nation.

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BettyR 2 years, 7 months ago

Not a joke. It is being done in cities far better than ours all over the country.

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tommybeall 2 years, 7 months ago

Betty, some of these statements by complacent and ignorant people have to be ignored to a point.. it's a generational ignorance that will be gone soon... maybe it's Albany's hope..

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TamewRod 2 years, 7 months ago

Albany has long favored cheap and ugly solutions over preserving its past and valuing the aesthetic. That mentality has brought us to the dismal state our city is in now, so why stop the downward spiral? Get lots of pictures of the bridge before they demolish it.

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whattheheck 2 years, 7 months ago

We don't have much left of "old Albany". Most of the charm and attraction of downtown has gone away and been replaced with whatever the heck we want to call the "new Albany". The river area is the keystone to pulling something out of the hat to salvage our tenuous investment. If this bridge is done away with, the riverfront with lose the last of its architectural appeal. It has a visual appeal that the new structure simply won't have.

But I am confused as others may be. Are with planning to tear down this bridge and replace it with another in the same location? And are we also planning a second bridge as a Clark Ave extension? And, if so, why do we think we need two--or do we? Perhaps we need to rethink doing away with the old bridge and do the extension of Clark.

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whattheheck 2 years, 7 months ago

PS to earlier: If the river is important to draw tourists--and perhaps give locals something to take pride in--it would be nice to have a place where a large expanse of river in two directions can actually be viewed. The North Trail doesn't give a view unless one wants to walk some distance through woods--too far from the river. Much closer, even the riverwalk itself offers limited viewing. And lord knows you won't catch many on Oglethorpe bridge to get a better view. It ties the river closer to what we claim is trying to be done--showcase the river.

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firefly 2 years, 7 months ago

Who in the world is designing this stuff?? It looks almost as horrendous as the arch!!

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