Building a better bridge
Construction to begin on Hightower Trail replacement structure

COVINGTON - Hightower Trail Bridge, described by the county engineer as "possibly the worst bridge in the county," will soon be replaced.

County commissioners recently approved a task order for $84,385 to hire transportation consultants PBS&J of Atlanta to handle construction management of the project.

PBS&J will perform daily construction inspections and verify quantities of materials used by the contractor, according to County Engineer Kevin Walter.

"We only pay what the contractor puts in to accomplish the work, not a lump sum," Walter said.

The one-lane wooden deck bridge, located on Hightower Trail over Gum Creek, is held up by steel beams from the World War II era and has a weight limit of 3 tons, Walter said. The county has received numerous complaints about the bridge, he added.

An accident involving a motorcycle occurred there a year and a half ago, and the bridge was closed shortly after.

"It's not a super heavily traveled bridge, but it is something we want to replace. The replacement cost with a steel conventional bridge was $12 million. We worked to come up with something safe but less expensive," Walter said.

The new double arch precast concrete bridge will have two full lanes with guard rails at a cost of less than $1 million, he said.

Bids will go out in early January, with construction set to begin in March.

The project will be funded through special purpose local option sales tax revenues.

"We're eager to have construction, and I know the residents up there are also eager," Walter said.

In other news, the speed limit at Brown Bridge and Magnet roads has been reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph.

Permanent radar signs are now up to alert motorists to their speed, Walter said.

A fatal wreck occurred at the intersection a year and a half ago, he said.

The speed limit has been reduced for a half-mile stretch, he said, adding that trees have also been cleared to improve sight distance, and drainage improvements have been made to keep water off the road.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.