The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to construct the new Northside Drive bridge on a 24-hour schedule, lowering the road closure time to three months.
GDOT plans to close Northside Drive just north of Atlanta Memorial Park in 2020 to replace the aging bridge. Previous schedules called for the road to be closed from four-and-a-half to six months, but GDOT has been able to lower that time, said Brian McHugh, the project manager said at a June 7 community meeting held by the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy.
The plan also calls for adding a separate pedestrian bridge on the east side of the road and building a multi-use trail underneath the bridge that will allow pedestrians to cross the road safely.
GDOT plans to prefrabicate some parts, do extra preparatory work and work on a constant construction schedule to lower the time the road will be closed.
The official GDOT detour is planned to be I-75 because it will only send vehicles to other state routes, but it is working with the city to plan for increased traffic on other surface streets, he said.
The city plans to adjust traffic signals, reach out to Waze and Google Maps to help redirect traffic and will take requests for road closures, he said.
The project will begin with utility relocation and other preparatory work in January 2019. The road closure is scheduled to begin the summer of 2020, McHugh said.
Some adjacent residents have expressed concerns about 24-hour construction, which McHugh said is a “valid concern.” The schedule also increases the cost of the project because the contractor has to hire more crews, he said.
The project is expected to cost $6.5 million to $7 million, according to GDOT.
GDOT will not be able to accommodate other requests made during previous public meetings, including adding a barrier wall between the sidewalk and bridge, McHugh said. GDOT will also not add a crosswalk at the intersection of Woodward Way and Northside Drive on the north end of the bridge, which runs over Peachtree Creek, he said.
There is not enough space to add a barrier wall similar to what is currently there without redesigning the bridge and pushing the project back another year, McHugh said.
“We really can’t delay it. The project has been under design for more than 10 years and pushed back for 10 years,” he said.
The bridge has was built in 1926 and has numerous problems, including cracks in the foundation, he said.
Residents had called for replacing the wall because they said it adds a layer of protection between pedestrians and traffic.
“There’s so many families that use that area. What if a car jumps a curb?” said one resident at the meeting, which was held in the Bobby Jones Golf Course clubhouse.
McHugh said the planned pedestrian bridge that would run alongside on a separate structure would provide an option for those concerned about safety.
The crosswalk cannot be created because it would cause traffic problems at the five-way intersections, which often cannot accommodate crosswalks, he said.
Crossing the street can instead be done at other intersections with crosswalks or by using the trail that would run underneath the bridge, he said.
The PATH Foundation is working with GDOT and the city to create a multi-use trail that would run underneath the bridge. It would be paid for with PATH Foundation funds it has leftover from other projects and would be maintained by the city, said Pete Pellingrini, the foundation executive director.
GDOT will do some work to clear and grade the area, McHugh said.
“I think it’s safe to say its a done deal,” he said.