Council considers bridge over I-20

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council heard a proposal Monday night regarding the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 20 to connect north Covington and Oxford to the U.S. Highway 278 shopping district.

The city's grant writer, Randy Conner, said funding is available through the Georgia Department of Transportation for the bridge, which would run parallel to the existing Emory Street bridge that spans I-20 and ends at Geiger Street.

"The pedestrian bridge would connect the sidewalks on the north and south side of the Emory Street bridge, and would be accessible from those sidewalks, Geiger Street or West Street," Conner said Tuesday. "Citizen input would be a factor in determining whether or not the sidewalks along Geiger Street would be extended. The bridge would be situated in very close proximity to the Emory Street bridge."

The bridge would be preconstructed and could be installed in a matter of hours. The posts would not be on the interstate, Conner said. The total cost for the project would be between $650,000 and $750,000. A 20 percent match would be required from the city. The matching funds, plus money for any sidewalk extensions that might be necessary, is available in the form of a Livable Centers Initiative grant. However, the city would need to extend the LCI area, the U.S. Highway 278 corridor, to include the area bordered on the south by the CSX rail line, the north by Covington city limits, on the east by Odum Street and the west by Cedar Ridge. Extension of the LCI area would require another LCI study, and there is funding available for that from the Atlanta Regional Commission, Conner said.

"The LCI area will involve extensive citizen participation and the opinions outlined in the study will be greatly influenced by the recommendations of the residents living inside the North Covington assessment area. We feel that this will be a great opportunity to not only improve the transportation options coming south from Oxford, but will allow for the creation of a strategic plan for maintaining and improving the quality of life for the residents of the study area," he said.

The council is expected to vote on whether to apply to the ARC for money to conduct the study and to the DOT for funds to construct the bridge at its Dec. 6 meeting.

"We're not looking to fund anything out of the general fund," Conner said.

The bridge would provide a safe way for Oxford College students and residents of North Covington and Oxford to walk or bike to the U.S. Highway 278 and downtown shopping districts, Conner said, noting that Gwinnett County has similar structures.

Maurice Carter, chairman of the Newton Trails-Path Foundation, said the current bridge has sidewalks that are too narrow and unsafe for pedestrians.

"If you get on the sidewalk and stumble you're going over the interstate," he said.

He said people are walking from the cul-de-sacs on Geiger Street down steep banks in a wooded area and crossing an active rail line to get to town.