COVINGTON -- The city will fund a $75,000 engineering study for a pedestrian bridge over I-20 only if enough grants and private donations are received to pay for the $1 million construction price tag, the City Council agreed Monday.
The city has been awarded a $500,000 Transportation Enhancement grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation to construct the bridge over I-20 running parallel to the existing Ga. Hwy. 81 overpass. Grant Writer Randy Conner said there may be additional grant funds from the Atlanta Regional Commission's Last Mile Connectivity Program available, as well as private funding that could pay for the cost to construct the bridge without dipping into the general fund. The DOT grant requires a 20 percent match and if awarded the ARC grant would as well, for a total of $200,000, but those matching funds could potentially be paid with private donations, Conner said.
"I feel pretty confident that we will be able to come up with the funds but nothing's for certain until we've got it," he said.
Officials are hoping Emory University will contribute, as the bridge is expected to be used by college students at the Oxford campus to walk and bike into town. Mayor Ronnie Johnston said he has spoken with Emory representatives and they have expressed interest in the project.
But several council members said they've received feedback that constituents aren't excited about the bridge.
"I've had a lot of people call me on this thing and I just don't see spending this kind of money on a bridge over I-20 when people have been walking over (the existing) bridge since I was a child and I don't ever remember anybody getting run over walking on that bridge," said Councilman Chris Smith.
Councilmen Mike Whatley and Keith Dalton said citizens are asking why the money can't be spent elsewhere, such as on sidewalks. The DOT grant could only be used for the pedestrian bridge.
Johnston said it might be cheaper for the city to buy a bus to transport college students into town, although council members said the school already has a bus, and many of the students drive.
The question is, Johnston said, "If we have $200,000 to invest in our infrastructure, is this where we want to spend it?"
Councilwoman Janet Goodman's motion to pay for engineering if construction costs are funded through other sources was unanimously approved.