The Union Recorder

January 16, 2014

Pedestrian bridge breaking down

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Last Tuesday’s frigid temperatures caused countless water line breaks and other issues around Milledgeville.

While en route to remedy busted water lines at Georgia College’s West Campus, a college safety officer noticed something dangerous around 5:30 p.m.

Officer Jeff Miller, a Georgia College Campus Safety Systems coordinator, said concrete chunks of the pedestrian bridge near the intersection of Hancock and Irwin streets were in the roadway.

“I stopped and activated the lights so I wouldn’t get run over and pulled the pieces out the road,” Miller said.

The GC officer estimated the largest portion between 10 and 12 pounds.

What caused the breakage is unclear though the icy temperatures might be the culprit.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) owns the structure.

Milledgeville Main Street and Downtown Development Authority Director Carlee Schulte said the city officials notified GDOT of the pedestrian bridge failure.

“At this time, we are waiting on a decision made by GDOT to see what they are going to do to remedy the situation,” she said.

Jim Leben, GDOT District Maintenance Engineer, and Len Burgamy, the state department’s Area Engineer, are aware of the issue.

Public safety concerns make taking the bridge down part of department evaluations.

“Due to the condition of the structure, the department is exploring options to have it removed but have no timeframe on removing at this time,” Leben said via email.

Decades ago the structure served as a student passageway between West End Elementary and Baldwin High School. The school system building facilities were revamped during the 1990s, with all new buildings, requiring relocation and merging of the old schools.

A Georgia College student parking lot and student apartments now exist on either side of the bridge.

Back in September 2013, the City of Milledgeville received recommendations from a 10-week pilot Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellows downtown gateway study. A landscape architecture student from the University of Georgia’s College of Environment & Design, Quynh Pham, provided city leaders technical expertise for potential improvement projects.

The structural catwalk on Hancock Street was a hot topic.

Pham suggested removing the rusted fencing for a cleaner look, painting and vegetation if the structure was closed to pedestrians.

If it remained open, other options included giving an aesthetically pleasing bridge inspired by New York City designs.

As for the stairs below the catwalk, Pham said opening an art design competition would take advantage of local student talent.

Schulte said the GDOT OK’d the city to move forward with catwalk projects. The city remains in a holding pattern for GDOT recommendations.

“Until then, we don’t really know how we can move forward as far as any design on the bridge. Right now, we are just at a standstill because of the issues with it,” Schulte said.

Building signage into the North Columbia Street downtown entrance hill, adding an arch for the Hancock Street parking alleyway using custom ironwork and developing an artistic façade to the South Wayne Street tunnel connecting downtown parking to businesses were a few options mentioned in the gateway study.

Schulte said the city continues researching additional project suggestions besides the pedestrian bridge.

“This was a nice one that got people excited, but it wasn’t the only thing we were going to try and implement. We are moving forward on other things as well,” she said.

GDOT representatives said there aren’t plans for the catwalk at this point.

“There have been discussions to utilize the structure for other purposes in the past but none are active,” Leben said. “The expense to renovate the structure as well as future maintenance costs needed must be considered by any entity wishing to renovate/repurpose.”