The Union Recorder

January 17, 2014

Demo imminent for Hancock overpass

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

Milledgeville’s famous pedestrian bridge or “kiddie walk,” as many know it, near the intersection of Hancock and Irwin streets, will soon be demolished.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) owns the dilapidated structure and began removal planning after concrete portions fell into the roadway last week.

City Councilman Walter Reynolds, District 4, said the bridge demolition was previously removed from the GDOT project list due to funding.

“Now with the recent mishaps that have happened there with chunks of concrete falling off, it’s been bumped to the top of the list,” Reynolds said. “GDOT has already had contractors out there bidding on the demo process. The timeline for this will be very swift. They understand this is a hazard, and they will be removing it quickly.”

GDOT workers removed the primary fencing and tested the concrete Thursday. Only a few fence posts and a mesh enclosure on the south end remain.

Jim Leben, GDOT district maintenance engineer, doesn’t have an exact date but confirmed demolition is imminent.

“We will continue to check periodically to ensure there is no loose concrete on the structure until the structure is removed,” Leben said.

The GDOT engineer estimated the complete tear down to take one week.

Neither the City of Milledgeville nor Baldwin County has to contribute a dime to the demo.

GDOT said the final cost is undetermined.

Whenever the overpass destruction commences, the street will be closed requiring traffic detours from state Route 49.

Leben said the traveling public and local officials will have detour routing in advance once a timeframe is established.

Decades ago the structure served as a student passageway between West End Elementary and both Baldwin Middle and High schools. West End students used the bridge to cross to Baldwin for band and P.E. classes in the mid-1960s. 

Cheerleaders hung football pep rally banners over the fencing each fall season as well.

As a youngster, Tim Henry lived on Hancock Street and attended West End in 1966.

Henry and friends rode bikes around Bonner Park and sometimes over the catwalk.

“It was a thrill to ride a bicycle across it to begin with,” he said.

Kids in the neighborhood would dare each other to cross the bridge scaling the outside of the fence.

“We’d hold on with our fingers and sidestep all the way across,” Henry said.

Reynolds attended West End and Baldwin Middle School during the final years. The councilman remembers spending “several afternoons watching the traffic pass by.”

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.

Milledgeville Memories Facebook page administrator Sara Brantley lived a few blocks from the bridge in its heyday.

“It was a neat connection between the high school and elementary school,” Brantley said. “It’s a shame it’s coming down, but I think it’s served its purpose. We certainly don’t need the danger that it might offer.”

Recently, the City of Milledgeville considered updating and renewing the Hancock bridge and the adjacent hillside as an entranceway improvement project. This was one of many suggestions completed by a landscape architecture intern through a pilot Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellows downtown gateway study.

According to the councilman, the city could still build an archway entrance without having to use “the old skeleton.”

“We’d be able to build something new like what stands at (Georgia College) West Campus,” Reynolds said. “We still have the vision. Now, we don’t have to adhere to an old frame.”

Folks coming to and from the city will have a much more aesthetic commute when the bridge is gone, according to Reynolds.

“I think people will miss it at first, but over time people will realize how much of an eyesore it really was,” the councilman said.