Georgia Department of Transportation Project Manager Roger Shelby talks to the stakeholders of the Community Advisory Committee about the proposed Clark Avenue extension that will put a fourth bridge linking East and West Albany over the Flint beginning in 2017.
ALBANY Georgia Department of Transportation officials meeting with Albany’s Citizens Advisory Committee said Thursday preliminary construction work on a bridge spanning the Flint River connecting Clark Avenue in East Albany to Society Avenue in West Albany could start much sooner than once thought.
Initially put on GDOT’s long-range calendar, the project has been bumped up on the priority list with officials saying construction could start as early as 2017.
GDOT said rights-of-way acquisitions will likely run $18 million, with total
construction in the neighborhood of
$40 million, most of which would come in the form of federal funds with some local matching money. Typically, local matches are about 10 percent of the cost.
There’s no estimate on when the project would be completed.
The bridge would connect on the west side at Society Avenue, cross the Flint and loop to Clark Avenue.
Currently, Albany has three bridges connecting the eastern and western parts of town. The fourth bridge on Broad Avenue has been closed to traffic because it has been deemed unsafe for vehicles and pedestrians. That bridge is also in the planning stages for replacement.
Discussion on a fourth bridge started in 1999 and is an echo from the flood of 1994, Roger Shelby, the project manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said.
The new bridge would span the flood plain — the area around the river that the state believes would be inundated by water should another major flood occur — so that the situation that happened in 1994 where major parts of East and West Albany were disconnected would never happen again.
As for the Broad Avenue bridge, which has been closed for nearly two years, City Engineer Bruce Maples said that the city is still on target to let combined demolition and construction bids for that new bridge later this year.
Construction is likely to begin at some point in the spring, he said.
An extension of Clark Avenue from East Albany across the Flint has long been on the radar of planning officials.
Identified after the flood, the Dougherty Area Regional Transportation Study Metropolitan Planning Organization, or DARTS MPO, initially identified the project as a long-term goal to help ease traffic on the existing bridges and to serve as a contingency option in the event of another major flood so that residents on the eastside would have access to the city’s two hospitals, which are both on the west side of the river.
While the connector was initially viewed as a long-term project with construction dates likely a decade or more away, Shelby said DARTS shifted the region’s transportation priorities and bumped the project up on the list.
“We had plans to widen Oglethorpe Boulevard first, but the (DARTS) board viewed this bridge as a more pressing issue, so we’ve shifted funding away from the Oglethorpe project to the West Society project,” he said.
In 2002, the group met and viewed various options for the extension and chose West Society Avenue as the prime connecting point.
“By going that far north, you minimalize the impact on historical property, business and residential areas that are centered closer to downtown,” Shelby said. “So that would make this our prime option at this point.”
As planned, the West Society option would have the bridge built directly across the river from where the road presently ends, with the road then snaking south and connecting to Clark Avenue.
The next step in the process, GDOT officials say, is to gather public input and begin the environmental study portion of the project. If approved by state and federal officials, GDOT will then begin the architectural and design aspect of the project before moving ahead.
Secondary options include having the bridge connecting at Flint and Tift avenues, but each is viewed largely as unfeasible.
A document listed on the DARTS MPO website shows a slightly different path for the roadway and wildly different cost estimates.
That document suggests that rights-of-way purchases could top $19 million with construction costs estimated at more than $70 million.
That document also shows a different timetable, with rights-of-way negotiations set to start in 2012 and construction to begin at some point between 2021 and 2025.