The current bridge has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced, said Cobb County Department of Transportation Deputy Director Dan McDuff. The new estimated $1.1 million bridge, a holdover project from the 2005 SPLOST 1 percent sales tax, will also be wider than the current bridge, making travel easier.
“We have been making repairs over the years, hoping to further extend, but recent events, including the 2009 floods, have led to the need for a complete replacement,” McDuff said.
Construction on the bridge is scheduled to start in May, just before the end of the school year at nearby Sope Creek Elementary, and be completely closed to traffic the day after school lets out. The county anticipates the bridge will be closed for four months. On average, 8,100 vehicles cross the bridge each day, but that drops off after school ends.
“Traffic is much better in the summer months,” McDuff said.
The new bridge will also better serve users of the Sope Creek parking lot at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, through which Paper Mill Road runs. A sidewalk will be installed along the bridge to accommodate people who want to view the nearby ruins or rapids or access the recreation area’s hiking and biking trails. Walkers now have to risk crossing the narrow bridge alongside cars.
For the new bridge, existing piers will be removed, earth tone colors will be added to the concrete and a stone veneer will be placed to help the bridge blend in with the natural setting, McDuff said. Utility lines will also be placed under the bridge and out of sight.
The bridge comes at a good time for the recreation area, park Superintendent Patty Wissinger said. New mountain bike trails are going in near the Sope Creek parking lot, which already sees 50,000 users a year. She praises the county for the work it has done in making sure the bridge has as little impact on the area as possible.
“Cobb’s been really good to work with,” she said. “Together we were able to make this as good a project as we possibly can.”
By spanning the entire creek without the use of piers, McDuff said the county will be able to avoid problems like it faced with the old bridge in September 2012, when it had to close the bridge for a weekend to repair damage caused to the piers by storms and high water flows.
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott will hold a joint town hall meeting with Cobb School Board member Scott Sweeney at 7 p.m. Feb. 19. While Sweeney is expected to discuss the upcoming school SPLOST, Ott plans to give residents a first look at drawings of the planned bridge and seek feedback.
“We spent a lot of time to make sure it’s not a stark, white bridge that doesn’t look like it belongs,” Ott said.
While the bridge is closed, McDuff said the most likely detour for drivers heading east would be to take Terrell Mill Road to Lower Roswell Road to Johnson Ferry Road.
McDuff said building a new bridge alongside the existing bridge, like the one now being done at the Highway 41 bridge over the Chattahoochee River, was not an option on Paper Mill Road. At Sope Creek, the only place to stage construction and place cranes and other equipment is at the existing road or bridge.
“This would be an almost impossible task if we had the roads opened for vehicular traffic and would also double the construction time or more,” he said.
Former Cobb Chairman candidate Larry Savage, who lives east of Sope Creek near the Atlanta Country Club, said he is planning to deal with the extra trip he must take when he heads into Marietta.
“I just hope they have a really good plan, because the longer it’s down, the bigger problem it’s going to be for a lot of people,” he said.