SMYRNA — One day after their installation, the pipes designed to dangle seven feet over the street on either side of the historic Concord Road Covered Bridge to warn vehicles too large to pass have begun to shatter.
In April, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved a $20,000 project to install the mast arms with pieces of “PVC-like” pipe hanging by chains at the 7-foot-tall mark on both sides of the bridge. The pipes are wrapped in reflective red material and are designed to make a noise when hit by a vehicle taller than the bridge’s clearance.
On the Smyrna side of the bridge, one pipe is now missing and two have extensive damage. On the Mableton side, the damage is less severe.
In lieu of risking having their vehicles smacked, some motorists swerve around the pipes altogether.
On Thursday afternoon, the same day the pipes were installed, a vehicle too tall for the bridge hit the pipes on the Smyrna side of the bridge so hard, one swung around the mast arm from which it hung and others were damaged, according to Ross Cavitt, a spokesman for the Cobb County government.
“They removed one, and they’re going to replace it,” Cavitt said, adding that the Cobb Department of Transportation was not anticipating the speed at which motorists would be striking the pipes. “It’s kind of a work in progress, but they’re going to try to research best methods to make sure the pipes don’t fly all the way over the bar.”
Cavitt said the transportation department had replacement pipes prepared when they installed the new warning measures, so costs to replace the missing or damaged pipes over time will likely be minimal.
He said, though the new warning measure will likely improve through trial and error, the county has not considered using new materials for the warning pipes, adding that the current design is serving its purpose.
Warning systems, including optic sensors that trigger flashing “turn around” signs on either side of the bridge, have not been successful in stopping vehicles too tall to pass from crashing into the protective beams just in front of the bridge’s two entrances.
The protective beams have been hit 22 times since the bridge’s 2017 renovation.
Dating back to 1872, the bridge that crosses Nickajack Creek just past Concord Road’s intersection with the East-West Connector was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The bridge reopened in mid-December 2017 after receiving about $803,000 worth of repairs.