The proposed replacement bridge for the Broad Avenue bridge.
ALBANY A group trying to save the Broad Avenue bridge from demolition has launched an online-petition meant to help sway public opinion and convince local and state government leaders to spare the city's oldest bridge.
More than two years ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation condemned the bridge from both vehicular and foot traffic after divers discovered that the footings of the bridge had largely been eroded away by the current of the Flint River.
In response, GDOT and the city of Albany devised a plan to demolish the current bridge and replace it with a more modern structure. A move that is supposed to occur this spring.
But a group formed on Facebook by advocates of the bridge launched an online petition Tuesday pushing city and state officials to spare the bridge and keep it for more pedestrian-friendly uses.
Organized by local historian Betty Rehberg, the Save Albany's Historic Bridge Facebook group created the petition at change.org and began circulating it around the web Tuesday morning.
"A restored Bridge is vital for establishing Albany as a destination for heritage-based travel, cultural events, and eco-tourism. As one of only seven similar open-spandrel arch bridges in the State of Georgia, our Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering that has been celebrated in postcards and photographs since its construction, and it continues to this day as an instantly recognizable image in advertising by public and private groups," The petition states.
"Our city’s potential to be an exciting and vibrant community worth visiting can only be realized by raising up our riverfront as the treasure of the region. The Bridge must be the jewel in the crown of our Riverfront Revival. Its graceful design and undulating arches will create the memorable architectural core of the area."
The bridge that is slated to replace the current bridge would have structural supports on the banks of the river alone, unlike the current bridge which is revered for its arches that span the river.
In a letter written to city and state leaders late last year, Rehberg pointed 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.
City Engineer Bruce Maples told the Herald back in November 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 millions of dollars 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 in a November 30, 2011 article in the Herald. “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.”
City officials haven't said if a separate
study has been done to see what the cost of repairing the bridge to a level where it would be safe for pedestrians would be.