The proposed replacement bridge for the Broad Avenue bridge.
ALBANY — The people trying to spare a 90-year-old Broad Avenue Bridge from demolition are asking city and state officials to hold off tearing down the span until voters decide on a new transportation sales tax initiative in July.
Christopher Fullerton told those who attended a public event at the Albany-Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that the bridge is “a precious gift left by previous generations,” and that due consideration should be given by local and state officials before it’s torn down.
Fullerton said that, by waiting until July, officials would give voters a chance to decide whether to pass a new 1 percent transportation sales tax that would fund, among other things, the construction of a Clark Avenue bridge across the Flint River. That could help bolster the group’s contention that the Broad Avenue Bridge could be saved and renovated as a pedestrian bridge.
“The community needs more time so that other options can be explored and alternatives researched,” Fullerton said.
On Thursday, the group hosted Neil Clark of Hecht Burdeshaw Architects, who is currently rehabilitating the Horace King Memorial Bridge at 14th Street in Columbus.
Clark gave a presentation on Columbus' multi-million dollar, decades-in-the-making Riverwalk, and how he and his company are working to transform the 14th Street Bridge into a pedestrian park.
More than two years ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation condemned the Broad Avenue 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, a move that is supposed to occur this spring.
The story was similar in Columbus he said.
Just as in Albany, the 14th Street Bridge had eroded footings that prompted the Georgia Department of Transportation to condemn the bridge.
The city, Clark says, then stepped in and either purchased the bridge or obtained it from the GDOT and began planning to rehabilitate it for pedestrian-only use.
That’s where the projects differ.
In Columbus, 80 percent of the $5.5 million price tag is to be funded through use of stimulus funding, with the remainder being paid locally. That gives the city of Columbus full control over the scope and design of the project.
In Albany, the project is being run by the Georgia Department of Transportation, which is working with the Federal Highway Administration and the city of Albany to tear down the existing bridge and construct a new bridge at a $11.3 million price tag.
Of that $11.3 million, GDOT is paying over $7 million, with the remaining $4.3 million coming from sales tax dollars. Which gives GDOT full control of the size and scope of the project.
Wes Smith, assistant city manager, said that its unlikely that anything will change. Bids are expected to go out within the next two months.
“The (Albany City) Commission has voted to move forward with the project as it currently stands,” Smith said.
Also differing among the projects is the involvement of a protected species of animal called the purple bankclimber mussel. The city and state are under a protective order not to harm or disturb the habitat for these endangered animals, while Columbus is not.
Clark says that with the design and planned use of the bridge, developers expect it to last another 50 years after they pour 18-inch concrete jackets around each of the nine piers in the water and shore up the concrete arches.
GDOT has told the city that its proposed bridge design should last for 100 years, would allow vehicular traffic and wouldn’t have any piers in the water.
The preservation group has launched an online petition campaign hoping to sway public opinion enough that city and state leaders will reconsider demolition of the bridge. The petition can be found on its Facebook page. So far, that petition has received more than 800 signatures from people around the country.