While a big-time movie studio plans to crash a car over the 13th Street bridge next week, many residents on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River are plotting new routes to work.
The 13th Street bridge will be closed from 6 a.m. Tuesday until as late as noon Saturday June 8 for filming of the movie "Need for Speed."
Barbara Barfield, 56, uses the bridge while driving from her home in Smiths Station, Ala., to her job at Aflac in Columbus, where her husband also works. She starts work at 8 a.m. Amid the bridge closure, she expects to start her morning drive around 7 a.m., as opposed to her usual 7:30 a.m. start.
Even with the schedule adjustment, she views "Need for Speed" favorably. "I'm excited that Hollywood chose the Chattahoochee Valley," she said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Ledger-Enquirer
The same goes for Ron Coker, an Aflac employee who uses the bridge while commuting from Phenix City to Columbus.
"I don't really view it as an inconvenience," said Coker, 40. He expects the detour will add five minutes to his commute.
Local filming for a major motion picture has people hoping a temporary inconvenience will produce long-term benefits for the Chattahoochee Valley. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson acknowledged that closing a busy bridge for multiple days is a downside of the "Need for Speed" project.
"It is going to be a huge inconvenience, but this is the kind of thing we need to do to invest in economic opportunities for this city," she said.
To lessen the impact, city officials are getting the word out this week.
"We are making contact with all the major employers and the Chamber of Commerce and Uptown Columbus so they can get the information out to their members," Deputy City Manager David Arrington said.
The 13th Street bridge is the principal in-town thoroughfare between Columbus and Phenix City.
Of the four bridges over the Chattahoochee here, 13th Street is the third busiest, according to the city's traffic count map. It has an average daily traffic of 23,290, much more than Dillingham Street's 4,710, but less than the Oglethorpe Bridge (32,150) and the J.R. Allen Parkway (40,680).
During the bridge closure, drivers in north Columbus and Phenix City would likely be best served by using J.R. Allen Parkway, an option Barfield and Coker mentioned.
Those on the south sides may want to use the Oglethorpe Bridge on U.S. 280 (Victory Drive). Routine traffic between the downtown areas would likely be easiest on the Dillingham Street Bridge, although it is only two lanes and bottlenecks more easily than the other two.
The scene to be filmed on the bridge will involve a high-end sports car being driven off the bridge into the river below, according to Patrick Mignano of NFS Productions/DreamWorks Studios.
Some people voiced skepticism about the bridge closure on the Ledger-Enquirer's Facebook page.
One commenter wrote, "Can anyone tell us how much money Columbus will make by stopping traffic for a week and dumping a stunt car in our week old rapids?"
The city will not be paid for the production company's use of the bridge, Tomlinson said, but it will benefit in tax revenue.
"They will be bringing 200 people, putting them up in hotels and eating here. That's like having three 200-person conventions here," she said. "We are trying to get our foot in the door for these types of productions."
Columbus police will work intersections downtown during high-traffic hours while the bridge is closed to help ease the inconvenience to drivers, Arrington said.
The city will be compensated for any expenses, such as public safety, signs and the like, according to Tomlinson.
Only the bridge will be closed and 13th Street on both sides of the river will be open until it reaches the bridge, Arrington said. In addition to closing the bridge, Third Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets in Phenix City will close from Saturday, June 1, to Saturday, June 8, for staging film crew and equipment.
There will be filming at other locations along Manchester Expressway and Interstate 185, but those will require no road closings, Arrington said. "They will be filming as they move along those roads," he said. "They are coordinating directly with the DOT on that."
"Need for Speed" is an action film based on an Electronic Arts video game. The cast includes Michael Keaton, Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper.
Movie scenes filmed in Columbus will depict a rural area in New York, according to "Need for Speed" publicist Andy Lipschultz.
Senior editor Chuck Williams and reporter Mike Owen contributed to this report.
Sonya Sorich, 706-571-8516.