A growing question about the odd screen fencing on the east side of the 13th Street Bridge and none on the west side finally has been answered.
The question was directed to the Georgia Department of Transportation after a reader noticed the discrepancy on the west side of the bridge entering Phenix City. Fencing runs a few hundred feet west from Broadway and 13th Street but suddenly stops near the Chattahoochee River.
Also known as the Horace King Friendship Bridge, the structure officially opened in May 2000 with the screen on the east side of the bridge but nothing near Phenix.
Bill Duval, an engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, said the designer for the structure only placed the screens in a particular area but they weren’t needed over the river.
“It wasn’t that they didn’t finish,” he said. “We preferred not to put them in on there.”
In fact, Duval said if the structure were built today, there probably wouldn’t be any fencing on it at all. “It is a bit odd bridge,” he said of the fencing.
There are a number of areas where the screen fencing is used. In this case, the fencing is perched above Front Avenue and a parking area under the bridge. Fencing keeps people from throwing items onto the street below from the bridge.
Similar fencing also is used sometimes over railroad tracks and other streets, the engineer said. The fencing also is not much for looks and the screens are kind of a maintenance issue.
The fencing is not new to the Columbus area. Drive along Interstate 185 or J.R. Allen Parkway and you will see plenty of fencing at most of the overpasses.
The fencing is needed now with W.C. Bradley Co. building The Rapids at Riverfront Place, a $52 million apartment and mixed-use complex along the Chattahoochee River. It is near 13th Street and Broadway with Front Avenue on the east side of the property.
Sam Wellborn, the longest serving member of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board, agrees the river needs to be seen in the area where there are no screens.
He also noted other benefits of getting the 13th Street Bridge and keeping the 14th Street Bridge nearby. “I think the best thing that came out of that new bridge was we were able to keep the old bridge next to it and convert it into a pedestrian bridge which we have is a fantastic thing,” he said. “It’s a good thing for both Columbus and Phenix City to have that pedestrian bridge.”
And there are no screens anywhere on that bridge.
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