Decaying Brown Avenue bridge closed to school buses, trucks over 3 tons

The rapid deterioration of Columbus' Brown Avenue bridge has compelled the Georgia Department of Transportation to reduce its weight limit from 10 tons to 3, putting it off-limits to school buses, concrete trucks and other heavy vehicles.

The bridge between Cusseta Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard crosses a Norfolk-Southern rail line.

The city was notified of the weight reduction Nov. 12, and has posted electronic message signs warning motorists. Deputy City Manager David Arrington now is briefing Columbus Council on its options for extending the bridge's use until it can be replaced.

The replacement project, estimated to cost about $10 million, currently is scheduled for 2011, with right of way acquisition expected to take a year. That means it could take 18 months to finish.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley said the city had budgeted $500,000 to replace the bridge, hoping the state DOT would supply the rest. He is recommending councilors shift $5.5 million in interest earnings and project savings from the city's 1999 special purpose local option sales tax into an account dedicated to replacing the bridge, and accumulate the rest over time.

In a Nov. 13 letter to Mayor Jim Wetherington, Georgia Bridge Maintenance Engineer Mike Clements warned that the "advanced deterioration" of the bridge was caused by "repetitive overloading by heaving truck traffic," and were this to continue, the bridge would have to be closed.

"Aggressive enforcement action is encouraged to restrict traffic across this bridge to light vehicular traffic only, i.e., passenger cars and pickup trucks," Clements added. "This bridge will be reinspected in six months. Any further deterioration will result in its closure."

Council viewed photographs showing large cracks in concrete caps on the bridge supports.