While most residents near the upcoming Powers Ferry Road closure have accepted that their commutes will temporarily be disrupted for the bridge replacement, one homeowner couple is suing the city of Atlanta over proposed changes to their property. The Chastain Park Conservancy expressed safety concerns and is working with the city to install a temporary fence to prevent pedestrians from bypassing the closure through the golf course.
“It’s going to jam us up, but it’s got to be done. We’re just glad to live here,” resident Cindy Mendenhall said at a May 15 open house meeting held at the Chastain Horse Park clubhouse.
The Powers Ferry Road bridge over Nancy Creek on the westside of Chastain Park was built in 1948 and needs replacing due to its age, according to the city. The bridge will be closed for seven months starting in September, with preparatory work starting sooner. The road is used by about 6,000 vehicles per day.
The official detour is planned to be the local roads to the west of the bridge and park. They include Jett Road, Conway Drive, Northside Drive, Blackland Road and Putnam Drive. The southern end of the route ends a five-way stop with major roads that can become a bottleneck.
The first public meeting for the project held in 2016 found that most people disapproved of making the official route Lake Forrest Drive, which is on the east side of the park, said Ibrahim Abousaud, the project manager.
“In reality, people are going to take whatever roads they want,” Abousaud said.
Multi-use paths circle the park and run across the bridge, creating about a three-mile loop regularly used by walkers. Documents distributed at the meeting recommend three different routes pedestrians can instead use while the bridge is replaced.
Wendy Hackett, who regularly walks the paths around the park, said she is prepared to deal with the closure.
“For me, I’m going to have a new route to walk,” she said. “It’s going to be a little bit of a nuisance, but the bridge needs to be replaced. People are just going to learn they can’t go that way anymore.”
The project, which is budgeted at nearly $2.5 million, will also provide a visually-upgraded bridge. The proposed bridge design includes siding with decorative windows. The project is funded by the Renew Atlanta bond funds.
Ray Mock, the operations director at the Chastain Park Conservancy, said he hopes to not see a repeat of the safety problems caused by previous sidewalk closures.
When the multi-use paths were built in 2016, closing the sidewalks, pedestrians tried to bypass the closures through dangerous detours, Mock said.
“We had mothers pushing their babies in carriages into oncoming traffic and on the golf course,” Mock said.
Pedestrians walking on the course disrupts the play of golfers who paid to use the course, Mock said.
“It also scares players to look up and see they hit a ball toward people. No one wants to hurt anybody,” he said.
To prevent this, the conservancy is working with the city to install a temporary fence along Powers Ferry Road, he said.
“We’re just going to have to change their habits for a few months,” he said.
The city has not finalized that it will pay for the fence and is still working with the conservancy on the safety plans, Abousaud said.
Residents file lawsuit
Although most nearby residents at the meeting approved of the city’s plans, an adjacent homeowner has filed a suit against the city over proposed changes that would affect their property. Walton and Virginia Byrde, who own the house at the southeast side of the bridge, claim they deserve to be compensated for vegetation loss and the reconfiguration of the driveway.
The Byrdes are asking for $45,000 from the city to compensate them for several 25-year-old bushes that will be removed and to repave a part of their driveway the city does not plan to repave, Walton Byrde said.
They also want to instead have a rock wall barrier built on their side of the bridge for aesthetic reasons, which is planned for the other three sides of the bridge. A metal guard rail is planned on the Byrde’s side.
“It’s wasting everybody’s money and our time,” Virginia Byrde said. “We understand the bridge is going to have to be done, but let’s do it and work together.”
Michele Wynn, a program manager from the Renew Atlanta bond program, said that a metal guard rail is needed there because of the topography and the angle cars would approach that side.
“I don’t think their request is unreasonable, but it’s a process that we’ll have to work through,” Wynn said.