COVINGTON - County officials have been concerned about the safety of Oak Hill Bridge over Snapping Shoals Creek for years, and now the bridge is finally set to be replaced.
County commissioners Tuesday night approved a contract for $67,722 with URS Corporation to handle construction engineering and inspection on the project. The beginning of construction is still months away, but when that happens, the bridge will need to be closed for up to four months. Total closure of the bridge will expedite construction time and save more than $500,000, County Engineer Tom Garrett told the board. There are approximately 4,000 vehicle trips across the bridge each day, Garrett said. The bridge was built in 1960 and recently was downgraded from a capacity of 13 tons to 10 tons, Garrett said. School buses, which weight 15 tons, and other large vehicles are not safe to cross the bridge. School bus traffic has been rerouted since early this year. Cars and light trucks can cross the bridge based on the current capacity.
The bridge is supported by timber posts.
Chairman Keith Ellis said beavers have caused some of the damage. “Those beavers are working on that bridge every day,” he said.
URS service will include preparing bid documents, construction inspection and materials testing. The county handles most routine road projects in house but needs URS technical expertise for the bridge replacement, Garrett said.
The project was included in both the 2005 and 2011 SPLOST lists, with money in the 2005 SPLOST funding the design. Some money that remains on roads projects on that SPLOST will be used, as well as 2011 SPLOST funds, to fund construction. The project was on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s project list but was never funded. Garrett said the county asked DOT about the priority of the project, but it was too far in the future to wait.
The county is preparing to evaluate all bridges for repair or replacement. Garrett said there are about half a dozen that are right at the limit of being able to carry bus traffic. The county will hire consultants to assess bridges for needed repairs or replacements, including when those should be made and how much it will cost. The report will be useful for planning purposes and to seek funding from GDOT, he said.
In other transportation news, the county completed road repair projects at Flint Hill Elementary and the new Newton High School on time for the new school year and on budget, Ellis reported. Airport Road, where Flint Hill Elementary is located, was recently widened from Poole Booth Road to Ga. Hwy. 142 to allow school buses to more easily pass.
Additional improvements were made a year and a half ago before the school opened and more are planned for the intersection of Airport Road and Ga. Hwy. 142 in the future.
Also, intersection improvements including turning lanes were completed at the intersections of Ram Way and Crowell Road and Ram Way and Jack Neely Road at Newton High School.
The projects were funded with 2011 SPLOST dollars.